FAR from the prestigious windowed offices on the outer ring of the Pentagon, a new war room focusing entirely on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan sits deep inside a cavernous basement, reports the Los Angeles Times. Created by Navy Adm Michael G Mullen, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell is intended to bring together the Pentagons top strategy and intelligence experts. The cell is also a visible symbol of how much the related conflicts have become Mullens war. By law, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs has no official power to directly oversee troops. Still, Mullens hand can be seen throughout the new US military strategy for the two countries. Now head of Central Command, David Petraeus has a large role in forming the military strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although still visible, Petraeus strategy role has been less public than Mullens. But a senior Defence official said Petraeus and Mullen are joined at the hip, talking daily and e-mailing throughout the day. At least every other day, the chairman has a formal video teleconference with Petraeus. The two men, the officials said, take particular pains to coordinate their work on Pakistan to make sure they are sharing information and insights as well as sending a consistent message to the Pakistani military leadership. He (Mullen) is very sensitive about the importance of trying to do something about the enemy sanctuary in Pakistan, said a retired colonel. He recognizes it is very analogous to what we experienced in the Vietnam War, with the enemy leveraging Laos and Cambodia. Mullen has made more than a dozen trips to Pakistan, usually meeting with COAS Gen Ashfaq Kayani. The long courtship appears to have paid dividends. Gen Kayani, the former head of military intelligence, launched an offensive against Taliban this spring. We are very fortunate he and Gen Kayani have developed a good relationship, Gates said. In Dec 2007, a couple of months after becoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mullen offered a searing critique of US war policy: In Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must. Later, he established the now-conventional wisdom in Washington that the fates of Afghanistan and Pakistan are irrevocably linked, and he commissioned a staff review that became a cornerstone of the Obama Administrations strategy for the region. The new strategy includes sending 21,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan. But it also makes a much deeper commitment to counterinsurgency. To implement it, Mullen worked with Defence Secy Robert Gates to oust the previous US commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen David D McKiernan. Mullens top aide, Army Gen Stanley A. McChrystal, was installed in his place. McChrystal has put in place tough new rules backed by Mullen aimed at minimizing civilian casualties and is emphasizing that the militarys priority is protecting civilians, not killing insurgents - even if that means some areas of Afghanistan remain under Taliban control for the time being. Military officials say Mullen has not just been moving top officers to Afghanistan, but has also been spurring the services to make changes deeper in the ranks. He has made clear that Afghanistan is where he needs his 'A team right now, said a military officer. Mullens influence over the Afghanistan campaign contrasts with his predecessors, Marine Gen Peter Pace and Air Force Gen Richard B Myers, who wielded little public influence over the conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When it came time to overhaul the Iraq effort, outsiders outflanked the Joint Chiefs. The shift is undoubtedly due to the fact that Gates is more comfortable with military leaders taking a public role in shaping and explaining war strategy than was his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld. James L. Jones, the White House national security advisor, has praised Mullens effectiveness as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Gates has noted his visible role. Roughly half of the recommendations adopted by the White House in its review were originally from the strategy review ordered by Mullen - including the idea of looking at Afghanistan and Pakistan as an interrelated problem. Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist with whom Mullen consults regularly, says that until Mullen became Joint Chiefs Chairman, the US military was reluctant to confront Pakistani defence officials about their countrys role in Afghanistan or to press them for more aggressive action against the Taliban. He is not a guy who brushes things under the carpet, Rashid said. Adm. Mullen understands the Pentagon has to change from planning wars to fighting them, said Army Maj-Gen Michael T Flynn, who served as Mullens intelligence officer, then joined the command in Afghanistan.