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Afghan Conflict Serious, 'Deteriorating,' Mullen Says

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The top U.S. military officer has described the situation in Afghanistan as deteriorating but said the new commander on the ground had not yet requested additional troops.

"I think it is serious and it is deteriorating, and I've said that over the past couple of years, that the Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated, in their tactics," said Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

U.S. combat deaths have risen since U.S. President Barack Obama ordered a troop buildup to confront a resurgent Taliban, with a record 44 U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan in July.

Polls show U.S. public backing for the eight-year war has softened.

Mullen, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" television show, said the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is still completing his assessment of the situation.

"Actually we're not at a point yet where he's made any decisions about asking for additional troops," Mullen said. "His guidance from me and from the secretary of defense was to assess where you are and tell us what you need, and we'll get to that point. And I want to, I guess, assure you, or reassure you, that he hasn't asked for any additional troops up to this point."

Mullen also said he was very concerned by last week's massive truck bombings in Baghdad, which killed at least 95 people, mainly in the foreign and finance ministries.

"[I'm] extremely concerned by the incidents last week. I think everybody was," Mullen said. "The key is whether this is an indicator of future sectarian violence and certainly many of us believe that one way that this can come unwound is through sectarian violence."