David McKiernan was fired last week by the US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, who had asked McKiernan to resign during his visit in Kabul a couple of weeks ago. It is odd that he has been simply fired without any clearly mentioned reasons! Though media in Kabul rumors about the increasing civilian deaths under David McKiernan, but it doesn’t seem so.
He had taken command of the US and NATO troops in Afghanistan last year in June and was scheduled to carry on for two years. Robert Gates while talking to media in Washington last week said “nothing went wrong and there was nothing specific.” Gates added “the focus here is simply on getting fresh thinking, fresh eyes on the problem.”
The Economist highlighting the reasons behind McKiernan’s dismissal reports that General David Petraeus, Head of the CENTCOM used to be a subordinate of McKiernan in 2003 during the operations in Iraq. Other than that, Economist reports, the new US Ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, a former general who served in Afghanistan, had reservations in working with General McKiernan.
General McKiernan had demanded of the US Administration for 30000 extra American troops to fight the increasing Taliban insurgency with sophisticated attacks. Obama Administration announced 21000 as his troops’ surge policy in Afghanistan. About 4000 of these troops are mentors and trainers. And to more recently, 2500 of these troops were deployed in Kandahar. BTW it caused cancellation of commercial flights on Friday from Kandahar, thus i had to stay for two days in the terrible hot atmosphere of Taliban’s birthplace. The surge announced by Obama Administration lacked about 10000 combat soldiers—what McKiernan had been demanding to fight Taliban comprehensively.
Other than that, McKiernan had been raising voice on the arming militia tactic of General David Petraeus that resulted successful in Iraq. The new tactic is already being experimented in Wardak Province. Political circles in and outside Afghanistan has been strongly criticizing the arming tactic. Based on flawed comparisons with the success story in Iraq, arming tribal groups will never result successful in Afghanistan because insurgency here is not merely on religious basis, as was in Iraq. Tribal and clannish part of the story play vital in the prevailing insurgency in Afghanistan, which McKiernan seems to have understood well to oppose General Petraeus’ arming militia policy.
Lieut. General Stan McChrystal is replacing McKiernan in Afghanistan. McChrystal has served as commander of the US special operations in Iraq under the troop surge by General Petraeus. He has also served as Chief of the Staff of Military Operations in Afghanistan previously in 2001. He has been leading the US Special Operations Command since 2003 to 2008 in Iraq with significant achievements some of which among others are, capture of Saddam Hussain in 2003, and the killing the top Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab Alzarqawi in 2006 in Baquba.
Lieut. General Stan McChrystal’s selection seems a good choice at a time when the NATO plans to launch aggressive against Taliban in the South this summer. Having made special achievements while serving with Special Operations, McChrystal’s experience from Iraq should work in Afghanistan while hunting top Taliban leadership and Al-Qaeda terrorists.
On the other hand, US Military decision makers should also give prominence to McKiernan’s concerns about the arming tactic. His demands for larger US troops should be reviewed by the Obama Administration. May be mentioned that Admiral Mike Mullen recently said more US troops in Afghanistan will force Taliban escape to Pakistan. This statement came after Zardari’s visit of Washington. Does Mullen’s statement show the changing mind of Obama Administration about troops’ surge in Afghanistan? The Summer Operations against Taliban in South and Southeastern parts of the Afghanistan should decide the fate of the war on terror and increasing insurgency in Afghanistan. It should prove decisive against Taliban.