US forces under strain: Mullen

WASHINGTON: Top US military officer Admiral Mike Mullen said on Tuesday that US forces were under strain from fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but were not at a “tipping point.”

The mental fitness of American troops has come under intense scrutiny after a shooting rampage at Fort Hood by an army psychiatrist this month and amid a rise in suicides and depression.

Suicides in the US Army are on track to reach a new high this year.

With 140 suspected cases reported among active duty soldiers since the start of 2009, the number of suicides was already at last year’s level, the army’s vice chief of staff, General Peter Chiarelli, told reporters on Tuesday.

But Mullen told a gathering of top business executives that he stood by a previous comment that the military was not at a breaking point despite two protracted wars.

“I still even subsequent to that don’t think we’re near a tipping point but,” he said at the event sponsored by the Wall Street Journal, adding, “I would not want to understate the seriousness of the stress issue for individuals and for families.”

As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen said “the health of the force” was one of his top priorities and that he also had been impressed with the resilience displayed by many soldiers and families.

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