Make no mistake, McKiernan was fired to put the varsity team on the field.
By Andrew Exum
[Yesterday], I delivered a lunchtime talk on the evolution of U.S.
counterinsurgency doctrine to a group of visiting officers and
diplomats hailing from various countries across the Middle East and
Central Asia. When I stepped out of my talk, I was then ushered into
the office of LTG (Ret.) David Barno,
the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, a god of the light
infantry and Ranger communities, and a man for whom I have a lot of
respect -- and all the time in the world.
"There, uh, was some news that was announced while you were in class," the general said to me. I'll say!
Now there is a lot of stuff at work here. First, I heard rumors that McChrystal might replace McKiernan only last Friday, when a senior U.S. policy-maker cornered me and asked me what I thought of McChrystal. That's kind of like asking a rifleman in the French Army what he thinks of Napoleon. Although I indeed served under McChrystal's command in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I do not know him personally and was but one cog in a giant machine at the time.
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is replacing the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, less than a year after he took over, marking a major overhaul in military leadership of a war that has presented President Obama with a worsening national security challenge.
Defense officials said that General McKiernan was removed because of what they described as a conventional approach to what has become one of the most complicated military challenges in American history. He is to be replaced by Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, a former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command who recently ran all special operations in Iraq.
The decision reflects a belief that the war in Afghanistan has grown so complex that it needs a commander drawn from the military's unconventional warfare branch.
"Our mission there requires new thinking and new approaches by our military leaders," said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at a news conference this afternoon announcing General McKiernan's dismissal.
Mr. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered few reasons for General McKiernan's ouster beyond generalities that "fresh eyes" were needed. "Nothing went wrong and there was nothing specific," Mr. Gates said. It was simply his conviction, he added, "that a new approach was probably in our best interest."
In February, Mr. Obama announced a new strategy, a troop increase and a broader commitment to civilian instruction for the war in Afghanistan.
General McKiernan had served in his current command for only 11 months, while such tours are usually two years or more.General McChrystal, a West Point graduate who served in Afghanistan as chief of staff of the military operations there in 2001 and 2002, also commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment and served tours in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf war in 1991."