Is there a strategy?

“A 94.2 billion dollar war funding bill before the House of Representatives imposes no time limit for the US strategy in Afghanistan…”

I have not commented a lot lately on the McKiernan to McChrystal switch out in Afghanistan as I have been doing some research and giving it some thought. I have never met either man and would be honored to, if I am ever given a chance. From what I have seen and heard both seem to be very excellent leaders and tacticians. If SecDef Gates felt that GEN McKiernan was not the right man for the job, then I am fine with that. Everyone brings different strengths to the table. However I find it hard to believe that he was able to determine that in less time that a soldier is typically deployed to Afghanistan. GEN McKiernan was removed after only 11 months, and not just removed, but fired in a very public way. In fact SecDef Gates even publically stated that he told Gen McKiernan that his career was over. The way that the SecDef and the President handled this was very unprofessional and disrespectful in my opinion.

There were news reports about McKiernan being an armor officer and “old school”, etc. That is all BS. He was trained on the same doctrine, read the same lessons learned, and has followed the same TTPs of leadership that all the General Officers are. I don’t think that Gen McKiernan, who showed he knew how to reach out and understand the local culture, was given a fair shake and I feel really bad for him.

LTG McChrystal has had an impressive career and has been credited with many significant accomplishments in the Global War on Terror. He has also been implicated in the Pat Tillman cover-up. So there is some baggage there. We are not really sure how much he knew, but just as he was the commander of the units that caught Saddam and other high value targets he was the commander of the soldiers that tried to cover up how Pat Tillman was killed. LTG McChrystal is a fine example of a Special Operations (Clandestine) operator and leader. Having him in charge in Afghanistan is probably a very good thing. It was just how he was put there that I have a problem with, and why.

I say ‘why’ because the SecDef and the Administration stated that they were putting him in charge to support the new strategy. But in the same breath they stated that the strategy is not yet complete and is still a work in progress. From the link above you can see that they don’t even have a timeline (which is part of setting goals) for the new strategy. This so called “strategy” is appearing as vapor-ware as we say in the technology world. Which means it is talked about a lot but does not exist.

Problem solving 101 says the first step in resolving a problem is to “identify the problem”. In other words you cannot develop a solution to a problem before identifying what the problem is. So how can they put in the “right man to support the strategy” when the strategy is not yet developed?

The bottom line is this, McKiernan is a good man in my opinion. So is McChrystal. McKiernan was disrespected and treated terribly in the press and by the Administration in the manner that he was replaced. McChrystal is probably a very good choice or best choice for Afghanistan depending on what the strategy is (more kinetic or more COIN). I am convinced that McKiernan was fired and replaced because of his words of caution about US forces being to blame for the high number of civilian casualties in Farah province a couple of weeks ago. He made this statement the day after the President and the Secretary of State were almost apologizing to the world about it and essentially saying that our troops were guilty. I think that split in message is what caused the surprising and almost immediate firing of GEN McKiernan, and as the SecDef stated himself “the end of his career”.

What do you think? Comment and let me know.

4 thoughts on “Is there a strategy?”

  1. I think you nailed it — he was fired for not going along with the “we’re guilty of every ill in the world” line of the administration. I feel bad for McKiernan too, there was no need to treat someone who devoted his life to service that way. However, I think that by the time an officer gets to be a General they are already political creatures to some extent, and know that something like this can happen. Sad.


  2. While I don’t know enough about McKiernan or McCrystal to make an educated guess as why Gates and BO thought they needed to remove one and replace him with the other, I can’t help but think that IF they are going to make the higher up’s accountable for the success or failure in Afhganistan, they shouldn’t have stopped with just McKiernan. We all know that there are many battle-space commanders as well as those in charge of the different task forces who need to be yanked the hell out of there.

    As for the latest air strike that ‘supposedly’ killed 140+ civilians, I think everyone needs to keep in mind that this IS A BLOODY F’ckn WAR!! People will die. Innocent civilians included. ‘Sides aren’t we paying those families recompense? Perhaps that is part of the cause and effect of higher numbers being reported. Oh, and there are still squabbles over the actual number reported killed.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how McCrystal handles such incidents. Cause we know it’s going to happen again and again. Especially since everyone knows how the Taliban likes to hide beyond the skirts of the general populace.

    Ok, there’s my .02 worth.

    Ky Woman’s last blog post..BlackFive Steps Up To The Plate…

  3. I think you’ve given it a well thought out, and fair shake. I agree General McKiernan’s departure was handled in a disrespectful way. Furthermore, in the press, his name has been preceded by negative adjectives such as “unimaginative.” Sadly, pen strokes like this are often not preceded with either fact or experience, but become a bad writer’s crutch. They tell or explain nothing and they do much to shape the legacy of an individual’s life.

    Individuals bring different strengths to a given situation. Hence, there was no reason for Gates to step on a political bandwagon to create new meat for the media circus. It’s true, the further up you go in rank, the more internal and external politics there are to contend with. I’m just sorry to see someone who has given his life to service to depart with tarnish created as a “red herring.”

    As for McChrystal, I just don’t know enough. Like you, I will hope for a strategy that works. I am reading, “The Gamble” by Thos. E. Ricks right now. Perhaps after I read it I’ll have a bit more grounding to comment (plus a few months of observation).
    I enjoy your blog a lot.

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