Small Wars Journal

An Iraq Vet Commanding In Afghanistan?

An Iraq Vet Commanding In Afghanistan? Time Op-Ed by Douglas A. Ollivant.

... Ten years in Afghanistan, and almost three years after the President’s West Point speech, and we can’t find a commander who has served in Afghanistan before? Is the cupboard really that empty? As one who made the Iraq to Afghanistan transition, I can assure you that it’s neither simple, nor easy. Afghanistan is exponentially more complex—and harder...



Sat, 08/25/2012 - 2:49pm

In reply to by jcustis


Command in Afghanistan is turning into a ticket to be punched by the real high flying multi-stars. I didn't know the good GEN had no prior Afghan experience but that he doesn't just confirms in my suspicious mind that that command has become mainly something good to add to a CV.


Sat, 08/25/2012 - 11:31am

If we have the personnel available who have Afghanistan experience, it would make sense to see them have priority of assignment.

I trust that my Assistant Commandant is going to do well no doubt, but yes, there are likely others better suited for the task simply because they have spent considerable time on the ground.


Sat, 08/25/2012 - 2:45pm

In reply to by Scott Kinner


What an absolutely marvelous comment. 4 paragraphs explicating why prior experience dealing with a complicated and dangerous situation isn't really very important. "the death of the generalist...trees" is an equally wonderous statement. It reminds me of those guys who proclaim that they can manage anything, running a railroad is the same as heading up a hospital after all, especially if you have an MBA, or got promoted two steps not one.

Another lamb for Pak Army/ISI/Taliban & Co/war & drug lords to bedazzle and befuddle.

Scott Kinner

Sat, 08/25/2012 - 9:25am

Well, God help us if we've been reduced to a military staffed with over-specialized, one-trick ponies. I am thoroughly surprised that someone with Mr. Ollivant's experience and pedigree can seriously put this issue forward as...well, an issue. Mr. Ollivant himself made the transition from Iraq to Afghanistan as have had, literally, tens of thousands of service people. Or would Mr. Ollivant have us follow his comments to their logical conclusion - that we should have raised an operation specific force - one for Iraq and one for Afghanistan?

Continuing that line of thought, I suppose we need to have a separate Army for each combatant commander? Indeed, is not that the underlying problem with regionalization if taken to its extreme? I guess in that world, Japanese tsunami or Haitian earthquake survivors will have to wait for rescue until the regionally appropriate force is made available, not the forces already at hand because when you are sitting and starving in the ruins of your home you really care if your rescuer speaks your language or understands your culture.

"I'm sorry, I would love to ride out of here on that helicopter, but since you obviously don't understand the plausibility structure surrounding ancestor worship, I will have to continue to sit here."

Mr. Ollivant should know, I would imagine more than most, given the high-level policy and problem solving positions he's held, that the real problem is the death of the generalist - the person who can stand back and see various trends and how they interact with each other, who can see the forest, not just the individual trees.

I am sure that General Dunford, so competent that the Marine Corps chose to promote him from Brigadier General directly to Lieutenant General, will just do fine overseeing the mandated draw down in Afghanistan.