The United States is focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan as their border area has become the "epicentre of terrorism in the world" with several terror groups developing global aspirations, says the top US military officer.
"Terror groups in the Middle East are seeking to expand their influence and operations beyond their borders to the rest of the world," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a speech at Texas A&M University Thursday.
He specifically mentioned Al Qaeda, as well as the Taliban entities that focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Pakistan-based terror organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed for the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
"The reason we're focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan is that living in that border area are terrorists from various organizations ... and it's become the epicentre of terrorism in the world," Mullen said.
"Several of those organizations, in addition to Al Qaeda, now have global aspirations and are moving to a point of having global operational capacity," he added, "and they threaten us very specifically - the United States, Western interests, our European friends."
Keeping the pressure on the terrorist organizations now is critical, the admiral said, noting that such measures include improving governance, education and economics in countries whose young people are becoming part of such organizations.
"I don't think we can kill our way through this," Mullen said. "I think those conditions have to change and that's a long-term challenge. That's not going to happen overnight. But together with other countries -- responsible global powers -- we can make significant progress over time. That's the long-term answer."
Success in the Middle East is based on several components, one of which is training the Afghan national security forces to provide for their own security, he said."
"There are some significant challenges with that," Mullen said citing reducing government corruption and helping bolster the Afghan economy among the factors.
Mullen wouldn't say when the United States and its allies would achieve success in Afghanistan.
"There is a strong desire to say: 'Here's a timeline, here's when it ends and [to] know for sure,'" he said. "I've been living in this world for too long; we don't predict timelines very well."