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Thread: McKiernan replaced

  1. #21
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    Default Tend to agree

    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    "We just need to get UBL and Mullah Omar. Then we can declare victory and bring the troops home. Look how quickly things turned around in IZ after the operation that took out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. That's just the ticket for AF too."
    I know some will see this as simple sarcasm or pessism but there is some truth to this statement. Political expediency is often the remedy for untenable military problems like defeating the Taliban. I tend to see McChrystal's appointment in lines with this strategy of 'man hunting' and 'capture/kill' operations along with a new long-term personnel approach as outlined recently by ADM Mullen. The idea is you assign personnel to the OEF problem and they never leave. For example, an intelligence analyst is assigned to USFOR-A does a 12 month rotation and then returns to CONUS only to stay engaged on the OEF problem while back home and to eventually rotate back into OEF to bring that resident knowledge to bear... A great idea and novel concept but one that fails outside of organizations like SF Groups and SMU's... Not sure how you take a concept like that and incorporate it across four services who have long looked down at "home steading"....it just seems like a huge organizational paradigm shift that would take years vice months to accomplish.

    Short term I think we will see a big push to "capture/kill" UBL, Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and other key enemy leaders while at the same time try to incorporate this long term theater specific unit focus in the conventional military... Personally, the capture/kill campaign will go off but I don't see the budget, leadership, agility, and acceptance from the conventional military services to sustain a specific unit which simply rotates in/out of theater looking at a specific problem for a sustained period of time. Yes, it works for SOF forces (both COIN and CT varities) but I don't see the USMC, USA, USAF, and USN signing up it...

    PT SENDS

  2. #22
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Big push to capture / kill?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pragmatic Thinker View Post
    (taken from) Short term I think we will see a big push to "capture/kill" UBL, Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and other key enemy leaders...
    Well that should be easy. Steady now. Open sources have long indicated that Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders are happily living in Quetta - with no apparent problems with their Pakistani hosts. I somehow think the 'will' to reach out and capture / kill is missing, let alone the reaction locally or in Pakistan.

    davidbfpo

  3. #23
    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    Default TF 6-26 and Nama

    I will phrase as a question, because the open source info is minimal and many here especially will know things that I do not.

    But is there not any concern about McChrystal's time with Task Force 6-26 and the purported detainee abuse issues at Camp Nama? Nor the "computer malfunction" that destroyed their detainee data?

    SWJ and its "rogue cousins" spend a lot of time talking about perception vs. reality, public diplomacy, and the like. If McChrystal has some ties to this sordid history, is that not a detriment to us?

    I feel like we have enough problems with the rumor mill in that part of the world without feeding it by appointing as commander of U.S. forces a man who has some questions to answer about his past.

    Just a few thoughts I wouldn't mind seeing bandied about.

    David, hope all is well. Long time no contact, my bad.

    Regards,

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

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    Default Pakistan remains part of the problem

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Well that should be easy. Steady now. Open sources have long indicated that Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders are happily living in Quetta - with no apparent problems with their Pakistani hosts. I somehow think the 'will' to reach out and capture / kill is missing, let alone the reaction locally or in Pakistan.

    davidbfpo
    Not to belabor a point that has been discussed ad nauseum but Pakistan remains part of our problem in the area... Not sure we will ever get a good grip on that portion of the equation, plus you're spot on with Mullah and his cronies living happily inside Quetta. At least the Soviets bombed Miram Shah and Quetta to deny some sanctuary to their adversaries. Anyway an interesting turn of events to say the least as we enter the summer months in the AF-PK region.

    PT SENDS

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    Default No comment

    Quote Originally Posted by MattC86 View Post
    I will phrase as a question, because the open source info is minimal and many here especially will know things that I do not.

    But is there not any concern about McChrystal's time with Task Force 6-26 and the purported detainee abuse issues at Camp Nama? Nor the "computer malfunction" that destroyed their detainee data?

    SWJ and its "rogue cousins" spend a lot of time talking about perception vs. reality, public diplomacy, and the like. If McChrystal has some ties to this sordid history, is that not a detriment to us?

    I feel like we have enough problems with the rumor mill in that part of the world without feeding it by appointing as commander of U.S. forces a man who has some questions to answer about his past.

    Just a few thoughts I wouldn't mind seeing bandied about.

    David, hope all is well. Long time no contact, my bad.

    Regards,

    Matt

    My grandfather always warned me to never stick my hand into a rabbit hole for fear a snake might have taken up residence inside and eaten the rabbits. However, you bring up an interesting point that many people are discussing at the water cooler throughout the DoD...time will tell and there is plenty of discussion already among the more liberal blogosphere sites one even going so far as calling McChrystal the "torture czar".

    PT SENDS
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 05-12-2009 at 03:13 PM. Reason: Spelling

  6. #26
    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    Default

    Just to mix some metaphors, that's why I sent the canary in first

    I recognize it's a difficult question and that's why I tried to present it in a much saner way than the partisan blogosphere.

    I think it's one that has to be asked and answered, however.

    M
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

  7. #27
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    Default Question for NATO

    Will McC also replace McK as ISAF commander?

  8. #28
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Heh. I don't know anyone over the

    Quote Originally Posted by MattC86 View Post
    But is there not any concern about McChrystal's time ...
    (Not from me...)
    ... is that not a detriment to us?
    (Not an ounce more so than all the Iraqi and Afghan deaths that McKiernan presided over.)
    ...appointing as commander of U.S. forces a man who has some questions to answer about his past.
    age of 40 who does NOT have questions that can be asked about their past...

    Very serious comment. War isn't nice and I provide four quotes that many will see as pointless aphorisms. Aphorisms they may be but they are far from pointless. Numerous Scholars, Politicians and ordinary people would really like to believe these statements aren't true. They are.
    "Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.

    If the people raise a great howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity seeking.

    War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.

    War is at its best barbarism."

    William T. Sherman
    McCrystal did what he had to do as he saw it at the time. No one can ask for more than that -- you can expect more but you're unlikely to get it.

    That said, I'm still not convinced he's the best guy for the job but that's on practical warfighting grounds, not on moral grounds. There is no morality in war, it is all immoral, every particle of it. Attempts to be excessively moral in combat kill more people than speed and force will. All wars are immoral but some are necessary. Once you commit, to be nice is to create more problems than you solve. A lot of US problems in war stem from those who dispute or ignore the comments quoted above.

    The necessity of these two wars arose from the moral failure of four successive US Presidents to take necessary action to defend US interests. Where is the criticism of those four?

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    Default Does it address the real problems?

    A lot of great points on SOF vs Conventional thinking. Also, some great background on LGEN McCrystal. However, we (US decision makers) may have missed asking the pertinent questions; What is victory in Afghanistan and how do we accomplish this victory? If it is "to kill AQ and Taliban leadership", then LGEN McCrystal is the man for the job. Having worked in direct support of him in Iraq, he understands how to hunt and capture/kill. The cost of the "to kill" strategy is we will never declare victory. We will only create advancement opportunities for the continually disenfranchised. Capture/killing AQI and insurgent leadership in Iraq was a very small, although vital, piece to stabilizing that country. I spent every morning for a year listening to Gen Petreaus giving his guidance and intent; most of which did not focus on the kinetic operation. Does the US have LOO's other than "capture/kill"? Is it possible to effectively execute those LOOs given the disparate and often chaotic command structure that is Afghanistan? Does LGEN McCrystal have the skills required to see beyond the kinetic, forge command partnerships, force mission focus, and facilitate the development of Afghan forces (civil and military) that support rule of law and allow hope to grow within the citizenry? David Killcullen was interviewed by George Packer of [I]The New Yorker[I] in Nov 08, and Bill Rogio of The Long War Journal 5 May 09 are just two of several folks who identify key issues well beyond the kinetic fight. Semper Fidelis

  10. #30
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Helogrunt View Post
    A lot of great points on SOF vs Conventional thinking. Also, some great background on LGEN McCrystal. However, we (US decision makers) may have missed asking the pertinent questions; What is victory in Afghanistan and how do we accomplish this victory? If it is "to kill AQ and Taliban leadership", then LGEN McCrystal is the man for the job. Having worked in direct support of him in Iraq, he understands how to hunt and capture/kill. The cost of the "to kill" strategy is we will never declare victory. We will only create advancement opportunities for the continually disenfranchised. Capture/killing AQI and insurgent leadership in Iraq was a very small, although vital, piece to stabilizing that country. I spent every morning for a year listening to Gen Petreaus giving his guidance and intent; most of which did not focus on the kinetic operation. Does the US have LOO's other than "capture/kill"? Is it possible to effectively execute those LOOs given the disparate and often chaotic command structure that is Afghanistan? Does LGEN McCrystal have the skills required to see beyond the kinetic, forge command partnerships, force mission focus, and facilitate the development of Afghan forces (civil and military) that support rule of law and allow hope to grow within the citizenry? David Killcullen was interviewed by George Packer of [I]The New Yorker[I] in Nov 08, and Bill Rogio of The Long War Journal 5 May 09 are just two of several folks who identify key issues well beyond the kinetic fight. Semper Fidelis
    Good points made above in a more pointed way than my earlier sarcasm.
    One could hope that the kinetic piece will be backed up by the clear and hold, WHAM techniques. That would fuse the best of the methods espoused by the current CENTCOM CG while in IZ and his new subordinate/near peer while in IZ as well (I used near peer as I'm not sure of the rank protocols for the ISAF Commander nor am I sure that McC gets to wear that hat too). But, then, hope is not a method, is it?
    Last edited by wm; 05-12-2009 at 06:12 PM.
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
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  11. #31
    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    Default Ken: I Don't Know Why. . .

    but it seems like we're always talking on different wavelengths. I'm always left going "that's not what I meant!!!" after your responses; but mean what you say and say what you mean, as it goes. I will try to respond.

    No defense of McKiernan from me, but are you saying that McChrystal wouldn't take any more flak from the ME or Central Asia for having been in charge of some disputed detainee conduct than any other American general just for being a professional military officer and thus having "done a little killing of bad guys myself," (as I heard Nagl say once)? I take it this is what you mean when referring to Iraqis - McKiernan as Land Forces Component Commander for Franks in OIF I?

    And I'm not asking for a record vetted by Mr. Clean. We've had arguments before on the blog comments and here about morality in war. I still say your position can be extrapolated to pure murder of innocent civilians in the name of "shortening the war," but I know we disagree and I will defer to your experience (not intended as 'oldness') and shut up.

    I was deferring as well from commenting on the SOF/SF vs GP issue because persons with greater knowledge and experience than myself appeared to have the market cornered. I was curious as to whether anybody here, rather than the loons out in the partisan blogosphere, had picked up on this element of McChrystal's resume and was concerned.

    You clearly are not; fair enough.

    Finally, re: four presidents, I wrote one thesis this semester. No need write another one here and waste everyone's time. One person and issue is enough for me.

    Regards,

    Matt

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Not an ounce more so than all the Iraqi and Afghan deaths that McKiernan presided over

    age of 40 who does NOT have questions that can be asked about their past...

    Very serious comment. War isn't nice and I provide four quotes that many will see as pointless aphorisms. Aphorisms they may be but they are far from pointless. Numerous Scholars, Politicians and ordinary people would really like to believe these statements aren't true. They are.

    McCrystal did what he had to do as he saw it at the time. No one can ask for more than that -- you can expect more but you're unlikely to get it.

    That said, I'm still not convinced he's the best guy for the job but that's on practical warfighting grounds, not on moral grounds. There is no morality in war, it is all immoral, every particle of it. Attempts to be excessively moral in combat kill more people than speed and force will. All wars are immoral but some are necessary. Once you commit, to be nice is to create more problems than you solve. A lot of US problems in war stem from those who dispute or ignore the comments quoted above.

    The necessity of these two wars arose from the moral failure of four successive US Presidents to take necessary action to defend US interests. Where is the criticism of those four?
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helogrunt View Post
    If it is "to kill AQ and Taliban leadership", then LGEN McCrystal is the man for the job. Having worked in direct support of him in Iraq, he understands how to hunt and capture/kill. The cost of the "to kill" strategy is we will never declare victory. Does the US have LOO's other than "capture/kill"? Is it possible to effectively execute those LOOs given the disparate and often chaotic command structure that is Afghanistan?
    Very good points. Based on my observations, Afghanistan needs someone who will authorize security forces to be aggressive in order to make up for all the territory that has been lost to the TB due to excessive hand-wringing and tip-toeing around hard issues. Granted, success requires a kind of quantum state where security forces are doing their job and construction efforts are taking the lead in interacting with the populace, but so far there has been a severe imbalance with far too little follow-up and oversight of construction efforts. You can't just throw money at a project in hostile territory and expect the right things to be done (which has been the approach so far).

  13. #33
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I'm sure we do operate on different wavelengths

    Quote Originally Posted by MattC86 View Post
    but it seems like we're always talking on different wavelengths.
    and that should be okay. I can accept and respect your opinions even if I do not agree with them.
    No defense of McKiernan from me...
    As an aside, I'll defend McKiernan. He's one of the good ones -- wrong man for the job in Afghanistan but that's not his fault, that's due to the systemic flaw that says anyone of similar background can do any job at their rank level. That has never been true. McKiernan deserved better and his de facto relief is domestically politically motivated and was poorly handled IMO.
    ...but are you saying that McChrystal wouldn't take any more flak from the ME or Central Asia for having been in charge of some disputed detainee conduct than any other American general just for being a professional military officer and thus having "done a little killing of bad guys myself," (as I heard Nagl say once)? I take it this is what you mean when referring to Iraqis - McKiernan as Land Forces Component Commander for Franks in OIF I?
    Yes. It'll be seized upon by the chattering classes (here and there) and possibly by the opposition as an info ploy but for most in the ME, one American General is too many and which one is broadly irrelevant.
    I still say your position can be extrapolated to pure murder of innocent civilians in the name of "shortening the war"
    Many will agree with you, some will agree with me. I'll certainly agree you can look at it that way but my point has always been that trying to fight wars 'nicely' inevitably makes them last longer and thus results in more casualties for everyone including civilians. Thus, I'd ask who is being immoral...
    I was curious as to whether anybody here, rather than the loons out in the partisan blogosphere, had picked up on this element of McChrystal's resume and was concerned.
    I think most picked up on it and I'm sure some are concerned. I am concerned -- but, not as I said over that aspect.

  14. #34
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Good comments by

    Quote Originally Posted by IntelTrooper View Post
    Very good points... You can't just throw money at a project in hostile territory and expect the right things to be done (which has been the approach so far).
    you, wm and helogrunt.

    McCrystal is a sharp guy but so was McKiernan. Both IMO are not ideal for the jop; the former has a heavy DA background and while some of that is needed I believe we're close to overdoing it, or more accurately not doing it right because we have people who should not be doing it involved and do not have some who should be involved...

    McKiernan is a Mech guy, COIN just wasn't his strong point and, seems to me, he was too nice a guy. Should've cracked a couple of heads and did not.

    More important than Afghanistan is the fact the Robert Gates has probably put his mark on the US Army for the next decade. I suspect that, more than 'winning' * in Afghanistan was his intent. Casey to be replaced by Petreaus to be replaced by McKiernan with Odierno and Rodriguez as wild cards... Fun time in River City.

    * I will forego my usual rant about the fact that one cannot win a COIN fight or FID effort.

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    Default Ken et al, question from the peanut gallery ...

    OK, no win in COIN (usual case: HN has a domestic violent non-state actor problem with possible transnational input(s)) or in FID (another nation assists HN in first situation). Think I got that - and generally agree as to the "acceptable outcome" philosophy.

    But helogrunt raised another context:

    If it is "to kill AQ and Taliban leadership", then LGEN McCrystal is the man for the job. Having worked in direct support of him in Iraq, he understands how to hunt and capture/kill. The cost of the "to kill" strategy is we will never declare victory.
    Assuming the target list is finite, and if all on list are killed, captured or converted (Turki's turkey), then there is victory as to that list.

    Yup, new leaders will pop up, etc. - and then you have to decide whether to play whack a mole with them. Maybe there would insufficient reason to go after them - as opposed to the guys who murdered 1000s of us.

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    I don't understand why a General with a SOF background is any better or worse, simply by virtue of his background, than an Infantry/Armor/Artillery/etc General. Isn't a General Officer supposed to be a "generalist" and lead in a fashion that transcends whatever specialty that he had when he entered the Army?

  17. #37
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default A twofer...

    JMM: Unless you're going to play Genghis Khan, in any COIN situation, you either kill them all -- thus win a 'victory,' I guess -- or, if you aren't going to kill them all for whatever reason, you're going to come to a point of mutual agreement -- thus less than a 'victory.' You cannot win a COIN campaign, you can only achieve an acceptable outcome. Hopefully...

    In the words of helogrunt, killing AQ and the Taliban leadeship will not accomplish the goal which is, as I understand it, to deny in some way future use of Afghanistan for the training or launching of terrorists. Even if you could do that -- which I doubt, the smart ones will just go to ground and wait until you leave -- you still wouldn't achieve a victory. They've got a personnel replacement system as good or better than ours. Probably better. So many are...

    Schmedlap: Yeah, that's the theory but in practice, all those Generalists reveal their backgrounds. Heavy guys like mass, Artillery guys like precision and rapid response (accuracy comes in a distant third), Aviators like checklists, the Light guys tend to be dazzled by their own tactical prowess, SF guys will drink a lot of Chai, SOF-DA guys will kill you if you offer them tea and so on. There was also a major difference in approach and tolerance for error between Officers with the same generic background but assigned to what used to be Functional Areas 41 and 53 back in pre-historic times...

    Problem is aside from the genes, we're all products of our environment and old habits die hard. Take Sanchez (please...). He was a tanker, an unusually cautious one with (bad IMO) experience in Bosnia -- this is the guy after all that took a week to get a bridge across a River; that appeared in Bosnia where the 82d had SSGs out playing Mayor and immediately upon arrival announced everyone would pull out of the villages and fortify in base camps (sound familiar...) and every patrol would have a Field Grade Officer accompany it. Sheer idiocy. If there was anyone who should not have been in charge in Baghdad, he was the poster boy.

    Having been in Airborne units with Mech experienced Cdrs and in Mech units with Light or Airborne experienced Cdrs, they are definitely different skill sets. In all cases, the folks cited performed adequately but only one crossover performed well IMO. On a far lower but pertinent level, do9ing away with the 11M MOS was not smart.

    The Generalist myth is caused by the harsh fact that our thoughtful Congress has decreed that we must be fair in promotions and assignments. Which means the Army has no choice but to assume that all folks of equal rank are equally qualified. They aren't and even if they were, personality and experience differences would still mean uneven performance. What that also means is that the Army is forced to place square pegs in round holes -- and as I've said before, you can do that -- but the peg is too small to fill the hole.

  18. #38
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default

    All I know about McKiernan is anecdotal, but none of it would indicate he is not a sharp leader - I would add he would seem to have spoken the truth on many occasions as to the conditions in Afghanistan and operational requirements to address those conditions. On other threads we've commented on the lack of clear ends est. in Afghanistan, but I can't help but wonder how much of what is possible there is as much a question of having the right capabilities available in the right quantities as it is having a vision to employ them.

    How much of what was able to be accomplished in Iraq in 2007 and 2008 would have been possible without the amount of resources General Petraeus had to work with? What are the types of capabilities that McKiernan had to employ, and how much can those capabilities be adapted to meet the true operational needs?

    Was the USG able to generate the right capabilities in the right amount for McKiernan? Will we be able to for McCrystal? If we are able - will we choose to? I don't see this as McKiernan's failure alone by any stretch, we don't need to look far for decent evidence that his options were few. It may a wonder the situation is not worse than it is.

    I think it will take more than a change in commanders to achieve our objectives (what ever they are, or may become). It will take some national will, and it will take the USG providing its commander with the right capabilities and capacities based on the conditions and the objectives. Anything less and we'll be leaving it up to pluck and fortune. I hope this is not an issue lost in the QDR, at least as far as relates to those capabilities we believe will be required to support the operational commanders who employ forces to achieve an objective.

    I don't know what sort of man General McKiernan is, if he will write a book like Sanchez, or just sort of fade away, but I suspect he has a side to tell. What I hope he will do is provide some thoughtful analysis on the war we can learn from. I suspect there is plenty of blame to go around, but we always seem to come up short on lessons which make us better - they get lost amongst the more controversial bits.

    Mark O - your point was well taken about the composition of JCISFA - currently in our band of merry men (and a few women) we have an almost equal number of Marines to Army, two Navy and two Air Force, We have one SF SNCO (our only NCO) and one long tabbed 06 who wears multiple hats. I would say the composition probably accurately reflects the organizations and people we interact with, and the ratio of those in need and those supplying the resources. As busy as we are, I need look no further than Neil Smith's office (which has both the COIN center, and Army proponency for Stability Ops and Army SFA) to appreciate the relative larger numbers we have.

    Best Regards, Rob

  19. #39
    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default To good to pass up...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Yeah, that's the theory but in practice, all those Generalists reveal their backgrounds. Heavy guys like mass, Artillery guys like precision and rapid response (accuracy comes in a distant third), Aviators like checklists, the Light guys tend to be dazzled by their own tactical prowess, SF guys will drink a lot of Chai, SOF-DA guys will kill you if you offer them tea and so on. There was also a major difference in approach and tolerance for error between Officers with the same generic background but assigned to what used to be Functional Areas 41 and 53 back in pre-historic times...
    Hmmm....so perhaps there is something to modeling human behavior after all?

    Best,

    Steve
    Sapere Aude

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    Default On the relief of GEN McKiernan

    Ken, although we can't know for sure how well or badly done that relief was, we do have a few indicators. First, Sec Gates went to Afghanistan and personally delivered the bad news, very unlike the relief of GEN Fred Woerner in Panama in the summer of 1989. Second, Gates went out of his way to praise McKiernan for his service in public. Third, he took personal responsibility for it in public. So, all in all, it seems that it was as well done as it could have been in those circumstances.

    From everything I've read,McKiernan simply was not the right guy to command in Afghanistan. That brings us to McChrystal. According to the reports I've read, he has a good relationship with Petraeus and is supportive of Petraeus' strategy. He is also part of the USMA class of 76 mafia that has done really well in the small wars world - includes David Rodriguez (to be #2), David Barno former commander there and now civilian head of the DOD NESA center, Rich Downie former commandant of WHINSEC and now civilian Director of the DOD Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies and intellectual mentor of John Nagl, and cAC Commander, Bill Caldwell.

    Not entirely sure what this all means but it feels better to me than what we had going before.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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