Small Wars Journal

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SWJ Blog is a multi-author blog publishing news and commentary on the various goings on across the broad community of practice.  We gladly accept guest posts from serious voices in the community.

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 06/24/2010 - 3:36pm | 3 comments
In Afghanistan, Petraeus Will Have Difficulty Replicating His Iraq Success - Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post opinion.

... This is not a vote of no-confidence in Gen. David H. Petraeus, whom the president has selected to lead the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, replacing the disgraced Gen. Stanley A McChrystal. It is a simple recognition that the conditions Petraeus enjoyed in Iraq are far from present in Afghanistan, and that the key skills he brought to bear in the first war won't help him as much in the second.

What allowed Petraeus to succeed in Iraq was not the troop surge itself; after all, a city as big and sprawling as Baghdad, with 5 million people living in two- and three-story homes, can swallow 30,000 troops without a burp. Nor was it his development of a counterinsurgency doctrine for the Army. The key tenets -- such as focusing on protecting the population, while still going after the diehard insurgents, and splitting rather than uniting the enemy -- were familiar stuff to anyone who had read the books. It seemed novel only in the context of Iraq, where for many years the American commanders had terrified families by knocking down doors in the middle of the night, treating locals not as the prize to be won but as the playing field on which they confronted the insurgents.

Rather, Petraeus's critical contribution in Iraq was one of leadership: He got everyone on the same page. Until he arrived, there often seemed to be dozens of wars going on, with every brigade commander trying to figure out the strategic goals of a campaign. Before Petraeus arrived, the top priority for U.S. forces was getting out. After he took over, the No. 1 task for U.S. troops, explicitly listed in the mission statement he issued, was to protect the Iraqi people...

More at The Washington Post.

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 06/24/2010 - 2:40pm | 3 comments
Odierno to Use Combat Lessons to Develop Joint Doctrine

By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2010 -- President Barack Obama's nominee for the top U.S. Joint Forces Command post said today he will utilize the lessons he has learned during three combat command tours in Iraq if he is confirmed to lead the nation's joint force provider.

During his confirmation hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno explained the approach he would take at the Norfolk, Va.-based command.

Odierno, commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, also has served as commander Multinational Corps Iraq and was the commander of the 4th Infantry Division during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"My first priority will be to support all of our combatant commanders and prepare our U.S. joint interagency team to meet the needs of this evolutionary and complex environment in which we must continue to operate, and not only operate, but succeed," the general said. "I will never forget my responsibilities to ensure our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, as well as our dedicated families, are prepared and ready to take on all of the challenges ahead."

Continue on for the rest of the story...

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 06/24/2010 - 11:47am | 14 comments
by Jason Thomas

While participating in a Commander's briefing in March this year at the Tactical Operations Centres (TOC) on a US military Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Afghanistan, the XO prepared the military staff before they gave their presentations by saying "be brief, be bold and be gone." So given five minutes with General Petraeus it would certainly be bold of a little Australian to give this highly intelligent, supreme commander of Coalition forces in the Middle East any advice at all. In 1991 Petraeus was accidently shot in the chest at Fort Campbell while observing a training exercise. The M16 bullet pierced his lung and artery. A week after the operation Petraeus proved to the doctor he was fit to be dismissed by doing 50 push-ups in his hospital room. He is one tough soldier as well.

We know that General Petraeus is not averse to taking advice from Australians, so here are some ideas from one who has been on the ground in Afghanistan for the last eight months. The advice is from raw and at times life-threatening situations at a level that many of the coalition soldiers don't get to experience. As the Regional Manager for a USAID implementing partner responsible for overseeing a key plank of counterinsurgency strategy I witnessed many facets of military operations, the impact on Afghan people, the attitude of the Taliban, the intricate web of tribal relationships and deep ethnic divisions, poverty and of course the omnipresence of Islam.

My brief advice would be to suggest five changes that may help turn the tide in Afghanistan -- but they require a paradigm shift in how our political leaders decide troops should engage and how aid organisations and civilian policy makers place moral judgements on development.

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 06/24/2010 - 11:05am | 0 comments
This important item, speculated on in various forums, deserves to be bumped up and out of all the noise surrounding recent events. Concerning General Petraeus' new duties, The Army Times is reporting that White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said "He'll give up CENTCOM". Earlier in the day, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said defense officials had not identified a nominee to take over as the Commander of U.S. Central Command.
by SWJ Editors | Thu, 06/24/2010 - 6:58am | 0 comments
Gen. David Petraeus' 3 Keys to Victory - Bing West, New York Daily News opinion.

Gen. David Petraeus, who turned around a losing war in Iraq, is taking over as the commander in Afghanistan at an equally perilous moment in a more complicated war. He will confront three immediate issues - the handling of which could well define whether NATO forces succeed or fail...

First, at the strategic level, Afghanistan can be stable only when Pakistan moves against the Taliban...

The second task Petraeus faces is at the operational level of war. He authored the Field Manual on Counterinsurgency, or COIN, that has become the textbook for waging this conflict. far the Pashtun tribes that gave rise to the Taliban movement have not bought into that contract. The Pashtuns have accepted projects, but rarely reciprocate by pointing out the Taliban hiding in plain sight among them or by urging their young men to join the government forces. This is the nub of the problem inside Afghanistan itself...

The third task awaiting Petraeus is at the tactical level. He must be very careful about the morale of his troops, who feel the rules of engagement have become too onerous. The worst outcome would be for our soldiers or Marines to avoid the hard areas because they felt they couldn't fight aggressively...

More at The New York Daily News.

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 06/24/2010 - 6:35am | 31 comments

President Obama's Statement

Today I accepted General Stanley McChrystal's resignation as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. I did so with considerable regret, but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military and for our country.

I'm also pleased to nominate General David Petraeus to take command in Afghanistan, which will allow us to maintain the momentum and leadership that we need to succeed.

I don't make this decision based on any difference in policy with General McChrystal, as we are in full agreement — (audio break) — strategy, nor do make this decision out of any sense of personal insult. Stan McChrystal has always shown great courtesy and carried out my orders faithfully. I've got great admiration for him and for his long record of service in uniform. Over the last nine years, with America fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has earned a reputation as one of our nation's finest soldiers. That reputation is founded upon his extraordinary dedication, his deep intelligence and his love of country. I relied on his service, particularly in helping to design and lead our new strategy in Afghanistan. So all Americans should be grateful for General McChrystal's remarkable career in uniform.

But war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general or a president...

-- President Obama - New York Times Transcript

This morning the President accepted my resignation as Commander of U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. I strongly support the President's strategy in Afghanistan and am deeply committed to our coalition forces, our partner nations, and the Afghan people. It was out of respect for this commitment — and a desire to see the mission succeed — that I tendered my resignation.

It has been my privilege and honor to lead our nation's finest.

-- General McChrystal - New York Times Transcript

Continue on for news, transcripts and opinions...

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 06/24/2010 - 6:33am | 9 comments
If Not the Marines, Then Who? - Roger S. Galbraith, Los Angeles Times opinion.

In this age of sophisticated, cheap anti-ship missiles, I understand why one might question the need to assemble hundreds of ships for an Inchon-style beach assault or thousands of ships for another D-Day. As The Times reported in its June 21 article, "U.S. rethinks a Marine Corps specialty: storming beaches," assaulting a defended beach is seen as a thing of the past. If that is the only perceived mission for the Marine Corps, then why do we even need a Corps? Well, if not a Corps, then what do we need?

Our nation - a maritime nation - will always need to be involved with populations and crises across seas. What kind of crises and what kind of crisis response force (CRF, for the purposes of this article) will be required to carry out our nation's interests? What will the nation want to do? Americans are a law-abiding, free-trading, caring lot, and we like to exhibit these behaviors in our foreign affairs. We want a CRF that can respond to provide humanitarian assistance within a few days of a tragedy to have the greatest chance of saving life and limb. Because many humanitarian crises are caused by armed conflicts, the CRF will need an ability to provide its own security as well as create an umbrella of security for others in a city or small nation...

I am reminded of the last time our nation had a crisis response force like this: We called them "Marines."

More at The Los Angeles Times.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 06/23/2010 - 5:58pm | 12 comments
MISO: Is it Soup Yet? - Lawrence Dietz, PSYOP Regimental Blog.

With lightning and a clap of thunder from the Pentagon, PSYOP is to be stricken from the Defense system just as the name Moses was removed from the legacy of Egypt. The Secretary of Defense has approved the recommendation to change PSYOP to Military Information Support and/to Operations (MISO). The Army Chief of Staff, General George W. Casey, Jr. has directed his staff to develop and orchestrate a plan designed to replace "PSYOP" with MISO in the Army (and presumably DOD) lexicon and branches.

The name change follows the recommendation of the DSLC or Defense Senior Leader's Conference. This is a conference co-hosted by SecDef (Secretary of Defense) and the CJCS (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)...

The name change has been an emotional topic and has been bandied about for years. On the one hand, "PSYOP" has a long and distinguished history with traditions and a nascent branch espirit de corps. On the other, demand for PSYOP forces is escalating and the optempo is breathtaking...

More at PSYOP Regimental Blog.

by Bill Nagle | Wed, 06/23/2010 - 4:38pm | 22 comments

Interesting if predictable developments today with GEN McChrystal being relieved

by President Obama.  Er, I'm sorry, resigning.  And certainly an

interesting move with GEN Petraeus being promoted, er, demoted, er,

reasssigned - yeah, that's it, reassigned.  That strikes me as a wise move,

all the more so because of the explicit statement that the rest of the CENTCOM job

will not be his, too.  It's not like that's an easy enough job alone and we

need to get more mileage out of that particular 4 star billet.

I also think the fairly short press statement today was delivered fairly well

by President Obama.  I'm sorry, he just looked so whiny and bureaucratic doing

his Gulf "War" address, particularly in Jon Stewart's

commission accomplished send up, that I was very anxious about today.

But the emphasis in today's address on the assertion of civilian control over

the military struck me as very ironic in this particular time and in this particular

war.  One of the key thrusts of the

Rolling Stone article

is the issue of who is really in control of the civilian side of things -- who was

GEN McChrystal's counterpart, and was there coherent execution there?

by Robert Haddick | Wed, 06/23/2010 - 3:49pm | 13 comments
President Obama's dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal was not a surprise. The transfer of Gen. David Petraeus to Afghanistan is a surprise. Petraeus already has a critical full-time job as commander of Central Command; Obama did not mention whether there is to be a new Centcom chief.

Obama's choice of Petraeus is thus surprising but understandable. Petraeus has not had a command in Afghanistan but is known to Hamid Karzai and other Afghan leaders. Back in Washington, Petraeus should get a quick confirmation by the Senate and likely without a major Senate review of Afghan policy, something the White House staff is eager to avoid.

Assuming that Petraeus retains his very full-time job at Centcom, the de facto replacement for McChrystal is actually Lt Gen David Rodriguez, the corps commander in Afghanistan. As long as Petraeus remains at Centcom, he will have to tend to the many relationships the Centcom boss has with foreign leaders, which extend from Egypt to Pakistan. Since foreign leaders want to deal with the top man, he cannot delegate this critical diplomacy to a deputy. In addition, he is responsible for supervision of the Iraq endgame, deterrence and contingency planning for Iran, and supervising the region's air and naval strategies. All more than a full-time job.

So what can we expect Petraeus to do about Afghanistan? He will have to sort through McChrystal's staff, no doubt replacing several of its members. He will have to re-establish troubled relationships with the White House staff, the embassy, the State Department, USAID, and other agencies. And he will have to reassure Karzai and other Afghan leaders and other members of the coalition. After an initial burst of attention, we should expect Petraeus to hand much of this work over to Rodriguez, assuming of course that Petraeus retains his Centcom position.

Obama chose Petraeus because of Petraeus's great prestige and his polished temperament. Unfortunately for Petraeus, the Afghan mission is just as intractable today as it was yesterday. The Taliban, the biggest winners from this episode, will hardly care about today's change and have no reason to change their successful tactics. General Petraeus will soon face his toughest challenge.

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 06/23/2010 - 8:34am | 0 comments

The Associated Press is reporting that President Obama has decided to relieve General McChrystal. He is to be replaced by General David Petraeus, currently the Commander of U.S. Central Command.

WTOP Radio announced that President Obama will make a statement regarding General McChrystal at 1330 (EST) today. WTOP Radio will be broadcasting the statement live and the statement can be listened to via the Internet at the link.

The Associated Press reports Afghanistan war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal privately discussed his blistering interview with President Barack Obama Wednesday, but his fate remained unknown as a formal White House war session got under way as planned.

McChrystal was seen leaving the West Wing and climbing into a van after his nearly half-hour showdown with the president. McChrystal had met earlier in the morning at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen...

The general was not seen returning to the White House for the Afghanistan strategy session, as he has been expected...


Military Blogs Ask: Should He Stay or Go? - New York Times

Should McChrystal be Fired? Pundits Weigh In - CBS News

The Replacements: 5 McChrystal Successors - The Daily Beast

Commanders-in-Waiting Line Up to Await McChrystal's Fate - FOX News

Via AP:

President Barack Obama meets Wednesday with his top commander in Afghanistan, whose job is on the line after he made disparaging remarks about administration officials in a published interview.

The head-to-head meeting between Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal is expected to take place before the president's regular monthly war meeting with his entire national security team.

Via the White House Office of the Press Secretary:

In the morning, the President will meet with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Situation Room. This meeting is closed press. Expected attendees include:

Vice President Joe Biden

Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State

Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury

Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense

Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff

General James Jones, National Security Advisor

Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Advisor

John Brennan, Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor

Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

David Gompert, Acting Director of National Intelligence

Leon Panetta, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Rajiv Shah, Administrator, USAID

James Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State

Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

General James Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan

Doug Lute, Coordinator for Afghanistan and Pakistan

John Tien, Senior Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan

General David Petraeus, U.S. Central Command

General Stanley McChrystal, Commander, International Security Assistance Force and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan

Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan (via videoconference)

Ambassador Anne Patterson, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan (via videoconference)

by SWJ Editors | Wed, 06/23/2010 - 7:04am | 89 comments
The "Story"

The Runaway General - Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone

How 'Rolling Stone' Got Into McChrystal's Inner Circle - Newsweek

What Happened in Paris... - Foreign Policy

Update 4:

McChrystal's Fate in Limbo as Obama Cites Poor Judgment - New York Times

President Obama's top commander in Afghanistan flew to Washington on Tuesday to find out whether he would be fired for remarks he and members of his staff made that were contemptuous of senior administration officials, laying bare the disarray and enmity in a foreign-policy team that is struggling with the war. In an article in Rolling Stone magazine, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and his aides spoke critically of nearly every member of the president's national security team, saying President Obama appeared "uncomfortable and intimidated" during his first White House meeting with the general, and dismissing Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as "Bite Me." The firestorm was fueled by increasing doubts - even in the military - that Afghanistan can be won and by crumbling public support for the nine-year war as American casualties rise. The criticism of General McChrystal's statements was swift, and the general had apologized and prepared a letter of resignation, though President Obama had not made up his mind whether to accept it when they meet on Wednesday morning.

-- New York Times

General Stanley McChrystal Tenders his Resignation - Daily Telegraph

A senior Capitol Hill source tells me that General Stanley McChrystal had tendered his resignation to President Barack Obama and that the White House is actively discussing a replacement who could be quickly confirmed by the Senate. The source said that among the names being touted as possible successors are General James Mattis, the outgoing head of the U.S. Joint Forces Command and due to retire after being passed over as U.S. Marine Corps commander, and Lieutenant General William Caldwell, commander of Nato's Training Mission in Afghanistan.

-- Daily Telegraph

"General McChrystal has a right to his personal political views. They are his, and his alone. When they disagree with the orders and policy he is instructed to carry out, his choices are clear. Instead, he chose to let those personal views, and disdain for those elected and appointed officials who disagreed with him, shape the tenor of his discourse with his seniors, and most inexcusably, his juniors. He has failed at the very basics of leadership that Captain Miller explains so frankly to his young soldier."

"So, the Commander in Chief has little choice but to accept General McChrystal's resignation, should that late story be confirmed. If the President were not to do so, he risks the skewing of the civilian-military relationship that is a cornerstone of our personal and collective liberties, much as Truman would have done in failing to discipline General MacArthur in Korea six decades ago. The situation with General McChrystal leaves President Obama with another, very dicey problem. Who will be putting hands in the air to command in a theater where the strategy and policy have been so publicly discredited by a senior General Officer? And whomever is chosen, what will be the effect of a new commander dropping onto the scene just before a key offensive that may determine the long-term success of the US effort in Afghanistan?"

-- USNI Blog

McChrystal Denies Offering to Resign - MSNBC

President to Decide McChrystal's Future After Critical Comments - VOA

Obama Holds off Making Decision on McChrystal - Washington Post

Obama Calls McChrystal on Carpet over Interview - Washington Times

Gen. McChrystal's Job Hangs in the Balance - Los Angeles Times

Obama to Confront General McChrystal - Reuters

General Faces Unease Among His Own Troops, Too - New York Times

Afghan Leaders Voice Strong Support for McChrystal - Associated Press

Can Obama Afford a Dismissal? - Washington Post

Fire McChrystal? A New Test for Obama - USA Today

McChrystal Woven into Obama's Afghanistan Strategy - Los Angeles Times

In Afghanistan a New Breed of Commander Stepped In - New York Times

A Hard-driving, Unyielding Commander - Los Angeles Times

Spec Ops Officers Shocked by McChrystal Comments - Army Times

McChrystal Comments Mirror 'Attitudes About Best Approach' - VOA

The President and His General - New York Times

Gen. McChrystal's Fate - Washington Post

Judging McChrystal's War - New York Times

The Other Truman Doctrine - New York Times

An Increasingly Politicized Military - Los Angeles Times

What Would Lincoln Do? - New York Times

Should the 'Runaway General' Be Fired? - New York Times multiple opinion piece with Kori Schake, Hoover Institution; Julian E. Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs; James Morin, Truman National Security Project; Robert Haddick, Small Wars Journal; and Nathaniel Fick, Center for a New American Security.

Military Blogs Ask: Should He Stay or Go? - New York Times

Gates Has a Long, Loooong Record of Firing Generals - Danger Room

General Stanley McChrystal - USNI Blog

The Seduction of Powerful Men - USNI Blog

The Replacements: 5 McChrystal Successors - The Daily Beast

Should McChrystal be Fired? Pundits Weigh In - CBS News

Kerry on McChrystal Flap: Stop the 'Feeding Frenzy' - State Politics

MacArthur Territory - Bernard Finel

Michael Yon's Criticism of McChrystal Deemed Prophetic - Michael Yon

McChrystal will Get a Red Card - Robert Haddick, Small Wars Journal

The Rolling Stone Article: Why Should I Care? - Schmedlap

Rolling Stone - Andrew Exum, Abu Muqaqwama

General McChrystal on the Rocks - Bill Roggio, Long War Journal

Too Rolling Stoned - Mudville Gazette

Stan the Man - Blackfive

McChrystal Aides Shocked, 'Heartbroken' After Mag Profile - Danger Room

The No-No Line - Blackfive

Journalist Surprised By Reaction To His Profile Of Gen. Stanley McChrystal - NPR

Stanley, Homework! - Kings of War

How Not to Handle the Press... - Wings Over Iraq

"Insular backgrounds, whether in special operations or conventional forces, encourage tone-deafness. Applause lines in the testosterone driven subculture of combat units are not likely to play well on CNN. Senior commanders have to move easily between these two worlds, delivering a consistent message to very different audiences."

"When I encourage young officers to go to grad school, I tell them to stay away from military people. Have lunch with the lesbian anarchists, attend the environmentalists' weekly emergency teach-ins, and try to see the world through different eyes. That skill will come in handy later on in life."

"It's a bit premature to pass judgment on General McCrystal's situation. However, it's important to distinguish between our long-term interests and goals and those currently entrusted to carry out those goals. While we have long term interests in stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, everybody in uniform is replaceable."

-- Paul Yingling via e-mail

"Having escalated the import of injudicious offhand remarks, Obama may feel obliged to relieve the general. His replacement then would be either the respected Corps Commander in Afghanistan, LtGen David Rodriquez, or the Joint Forces Commander, General James Mattis, who is a legend among the troops. LtGen John Allen, deputy to General Petraeus, also has a fine track record. While these are qualified replacements and it does look grim for McChrystal, he should not be relieved. Our enemies would gloat about such headlines, while Afghan President Karzai, who has leapt to McChrystal's defense, would feel rebuffed. After all, Obama has chosen to ignore Karzai's erratic remarks. Although I believe the current counterinsurgency strategy is too ambitious for our budget and too restrictive for our troops in the long term, McChrystal is confident he can stop the momentum of Afghan insurgents in the short term. That is the first order of business in this war. Our field commander should be judged on what happens in the field. We only have one commander at a time; Obama chose McChrystal, so let him do his best."

-- Bing West via e-mail

Update 3:

"I read with concern the profile piece on Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the upcoming edition of 'Rolling Stone' magazine. I believe that Gen. McChrystal made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case. We are fighting a war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies, who directly threaten the United States, Afghanistan, and our friends and allies around the world. Going forward, we must pursue this mission with a unity of purpose. Our troops and coalition partners are making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our security, and our singular focus must be on supporting them and succeeding in Afghanistan without such distractions. Gen. McChrystal has apologized to me and is similarly reaching out to others named in this article to apologize to them as well. I have recalled Gen. McChrystal to Washington to discuss this in person."

-- SECDEF Robert Gates

Even some of McChrystal's staunchest backers in Afghanistan said the derisive comments the general and his staff made about the Obama administration to a Rolling Stone reporter leave him open to dismissal.

"I say this as someone who admired and respects Stan McChrystal enormously. The country doesn't know how much good he's done. But this is a firing offense," said Eliot A. Cohen, who served as a counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the latter days of the Bush administration.

This is clearly a firing offense," said Peter Feaver, a former official in the Bush White House and strong backer of a fully resourced counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

But relieving McChrystal of his command on the eve of a major offensive in Kandahar, which White House and Pentagon officials have said is the most critical of the war, would be a major blow to the war effort, said military experts.

"My advice is to call him back to Washington, publicly chastise him and then make it clear that there is something greater at stake here," said Nathaniel Fick, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now chief executive of the Center for a New American Security.

-- Washington Post

"We'll have to wait for Wednesday to see if McChrystal keeps his command. My guess is he'll stay, because now the White House knows that a chastened McChrystal isn't going to say anything else outside of his lane to any reporter. McChrystal's apology, emailed to me and other reporters well before the Rolling Stone story dropped, suggests that he wasn't trying to walk away from his command in a blaze of arrogance. But it's on him to repair his relationship with his colleagues and his bosses."

"You know, all that said — Yesterday, Gates passed over Gen. James Mattis for Marine Corps commandant. If Obama wants to cashier McChrystal but not overhaul the entire strategy, Mattis is an option. Whether he'd do it is another thing, since he's the outgoing commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, so taking over ISAF will technically be a step down. But Mattis will otherwise retire from the Marines, so maybe he wouldn't see it that way."

-- Spencer Ackerman

"Obviously the war's not going well, nor is it apparently where General McChrystal himself thought it would be at this stage of things," says Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired Army colonel. "But what stands out is the egregious lapse in professional conduct -- not only on the part of McChrystal, but on the part of his subordinates."

"What this reveals," he adds, "is a command climate where expressions of contempt for senior civilian officials are permissible."

'While "frustrations" in such a difficult and deteriorating environment may be "understandable," Mr. Bacevich says, the comments nevertheless represent "unprofessional behavior that is completely intolerable."

"If that is so, is it time to sack McChrystal? The Afghanistan commander, who has apologized for his comments and his own "poor judgment," has been summoned to the White House to explain himself to President Obama Wednesday."

"Yet while some Afghanistan analysts quickly concluded that Mr. Obama must fire McChrystal over his "insubordination," just as President Truman did to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1951 over Korean war policy, Bacevich says now is not the time."

-- Christian Science Monitor

Update 2:

McChrystal Scandal May Complicate U.S.-Afghan Strategy - Washington Post

Defense Secretary's Statement on McChrystal - Wall Street Journal

U.S. General in Afghan War at Tisk of Losing Job - Associated Press

Gates: General McChrystal Made Big Mistake - Reuters

McChrystal's PR Man Resigns - MSNBC

NATO Confident in McChrystal Despite U.S. Article - Reuters

Factbox: Reaction to Gen. McChrystal Controversy - Reuters


U.S. General McChrystal Recalled Amid Rolling Stone Gaffe - BBC News.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has been summoned to Washington, US media report, in the wake of a magazine article that mocked senior Obama administration officials and diplomats. Gen Stanley McChrystal has apologised for the article in Rolling Stone. In the article, Gen McChrystal said he felt betrayed by U.S. ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry. The general's aides mock Vice-President Joe Biden and say Gen McChrystal was "disappointed" in President Obama...

More at BBC News.

Also See (Update 1):

Gen. Stanley McChrystal Summoned to Washington - Washington Post

Top Afghan Commander Summoned to Washington - Associated Press

NATO Setbacks as U.S. Summons Commander - Agence France-Presse

McChrystal on Defensive for Remarks - Wall Street Journal

ISAF: Magazine Profile Captures Unguarded Moments - Los Angeles Times

Aides to U.S. General In Afghanistan Slam Obama - Reuters

McChrystal Apologizes for Insulting Obama Team - Washington Independent

Latest McChrystal Developments - CNN News

Rolling Stone Story a Sign of Frustration? - Christian Science Monitor

Gen. McChrystal Recalled to Washington - Foreign Policy

McChrystal Issues Mea Culpa - Foreign Policy

Don't Blame McChrystal, Blame Obama - Washington Post

The McChrystal I Know - Time

General McChrystal Clearly in Four-Star Trouble - CBS News

A Couple of Points about McChrystal - National Review

Should He Go? - National Review

Military Dissent Should Be Private - National Review

McChrystal's Media Woes - Contentions

Re: McChrystal's Media Woes - Contentions

Top Afghanistan General Questions Civilian Leaders - Politico

Firing McChrystal: Weighing the Risks - Abu Muqawama

McChrystal and the Afghan Drawdown - World Politics Review

What the Heck Was McChrystal Thinking? - The Atlantic

Rolling Stone McChrystal Article Understates Backbiting - Washington Post

McChrystal Finds Few Defenders Among Senators - Washington Post

Gen. McCrystal Must Go - Washington Post

Runaway General - ABC News

Fire Gen. Stanley McChrystal? Not Yet - New York Daily News

Obama and McChrystal Haven't Spoken - The Atlantic

'Everybody in Uniform is Replaceable' - Danger Room

Why Obama Won't Fire McChrystal - FOX News

Good-Bye McChrystal, Hello Mattis? - Foreign Policy

Advanced Petard Hoistmanship - Forward Movement

Is McChrystal Going to Fallon his Sword? - Zenpundit

What's Important About This? - Captain's Journal

Four Reasons Why Obama HAS to Fire Stan McChrystal - Democracy Arsenal

Afghan Follies: Obama versus McChrystal - Huffington Post

by Robert Haddick | Tue, 06/22/2010 - 11:38am | 34 comments
This morning I was going to write a brief post about a conference I recently attended on strategic surprise. A few thoughts on what is very likely the sudden end of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's career is a fitting substitute.

It is hard to believe that President Obama and his staff will be able to continue to work with McChrystal after the revelation of the Rolling Stone affair. President Obama will have to defend his commander-in-chief powers under Article II of the Constitution and that will almost certainly require McChrystal's swift retirement. To allow McChrystal to apologize and stay on would set a bad precedent, send the wrong signal regarding civil-military relations to the rest of the military, and would cause great uproar among Obama's civilian staff.

Who will replace McChrystal? For the sake of continuity in the midst of the critical Kandahar operation, the elevation of LTG David Rodriguez would seem logical. Regrettably, the contemptuous attitude toward Obama and the White House staff apparently extends throughout McChrystal's staff. As a McChrystal deputy, Rodriguez may be suspect. In any case, several staff officers will also have to go, with a broad investigation likely to follow. Thus someone from the outside may be necessary. Probably not Gen. James Mattis -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates apparently passed him over for Commandant of the Marine Corps so Gates could hardly support him for ISAF. My guess would be someone currently working on the Joint Staff or on Gates's personal staff, someone already well known to Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen (which, ironically, is how McChrystal and Rodriguez got to Afghanistan).

Finally, how did this fiasco with Rolling Stone magazine happen? Field commanders and their staff officers talk to the media in order to get their stories out. In the case of McChrystal and the Afghanistan campaign, the need to do so has lately been even more urgent than usual. McChrystal and his staff were seeking to "add time to the Washington clock." They hoped to get their message out to media audience segments that would soon be putting the most pressure on the Obama administration to terminate the campaign. The theory was that delivering their message -- through a channel like Rolling Stone -- would short-circuit, at least for a time, growing political pressure against the war. Unfortunately for McChrystal and certain members of his staff, the inflammatory bits of the article apparently show a commander and staff frustrated and exhausted by an intractable task -- the very opposite of the message they intended to send.

Obama, Gates, Mullen, and Gen. David Petraeus will get an opportunity to make a decisive shake-up. But counterinsurgency is all about inspiring confidence in the cause among the many actors inside the host nation, not to mention the soldiers and Marines who are ordered out on patrol every day. What remains of that confidence after the shake-up remains to be seen.

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 06/22/2010 - 8:18am | 0 comments
Defense Secretary Gates Announces Recommendations to the President on Senior Marine Corps Leadership Positions - Department of Defense news release.

"I am pleased to announce that I have recommended to the President that Gen. James F. Amos be nominated as the next commandant of the United States Marine Corps. Gen. Amos' combat experience includes command of a Marine aircraft wing and a Marine expeditionary force during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He went on to lead the Marines' Combat Development Command and serve as deputy commandant for combat development and integration. If nominated and confirmed, Gen. Amos will be the first aviator to attain this post.

"I am also recommending that Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford be promoted to replace Gen. Amos as assistant commandant. Lt. Gen. Dunford is currently the commander of I MEF and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command, with responsibility for all Marines serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters.

"Gen. James Conway will complete his term as commandant this fall and retire from the Marine Corps after four decades of outstanding service. On behalf of the American people, I want to thank Gen. Conway for his faithful and selfless service that included tours as a battalion commander in Operation Desert Storm, a Marine expeditionary force commander in Iraq, and director of operations for the Joint Staff. We will properly recognize Gen. Conway's extraordinary service at an appropriate time.

"I came to these leadership decisions after a thorough process that considered several outstanding candidates. I am convinced that Gen. Amos and Lt. Gen. Dunford are the right team to lead the U.S. Marine Corps at this time, especially as it balances the capabilities needed to support current operations, its unique maritime heritage and its future role defending America."


Gates Recommends Amos, Dunford Lead Marine Corps - North County Times

Gates Announces Choice for Marine Corps Chief - Associated Press

General James F. Amos - USMC Official Biography

General James F. Amos - Wikipedia

Lieutenant General Joseph F. Dunford - USMC Official Biography

Lieutenant General Joseph F. Dunford - Wikipedia

by SWJ Editors | Tue, 06/22/2010 - 6:33am | 3 comments

A Battle Against the Odds - Mark Moyar, Wall Street Journal book review.

On Sept. 11, 2006, exactly five years after 9/11, the Washington Post divulged a classified U.S. intelligence report under the headline, "Anbar Is Lost Politically, Marine Analyst Says." According to an anonymous American source, the report said that "we haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically—and that's where wars are won and lost."

It is true that the situation in Anbar Province, a hotbed of Sunni Muslim resistance in western Iraq, was dire at the time. Three years earlier the Americans had arrived intent on winning over the population through democratic governance and economic development. But most local civilians—out of support for Sunni insurgents or fear of them—had rejected U.S. requests to serve in the government or participate in development projects. American units ended up spending most of their time battling swarms of guerrillas.

In A Chance in Hell, Jim Michaels, a military reporter for USA Today, deftly explains how the so-called Anbar Awakening emerged from this seemingly hopeless set of circumstances, saving the troubled province and the rest of Sunni Iraq. Whereas many accounts of the Awakening have portrayed it as an American creation, Mr. Michaels shows that it was largely the handiwork of Iraqis, particularly a local leader named Abdul Sattar Abu Risha. Mr. Michaels details how Sattar, a sheik of a minor tribe, formed a robust tribal alliance against al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) before striking a deal with the Americans...

More at The Wall Street Journal.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 06/21/2010 - 3:54pm | 3 comments
The Conversation: Are We Leaving Afghanistan Too Soon? - ABC News

Author David Kilcullen on Troop Withdrawal, the Influence of Wikileaks and Corruption in Afghanistan.

... in today's Conversation, David Kilcullen, a senior advisor to the U.S. military on counterinsurgency, war strategy and counterterrorism, tells ABC's Diane Sawyer that the president's goal might be too ambitous. According to Kilcullen, if the U.S. leaves before stabilizing the region, it will leave power in the hands of a corrupt and instable government. The Taliban was born in Afghanistan and has deep ties to the region -- Kilcullen argues that pulling the troops too soon would leave the government, and its people, once again vulnerable to the Taliban's control.

Kilcullen's latest book titled Counterinsurgency lays out his plan for a stable withdrawal from Afghanistan. A former lieutenant colonel in the Australian army, he has spent time in both Iraq and Afghanistan and advised General David Petraeus and the U.S. State Department on counterinsurgency strategy...

More at ABC News.

by SWJ Editors | Mon, 06/21/2010 - 7:58am | 11 comments
U.S. Rethinks a Marine Corps Specialty: Storming Beaches - Tony Perry and Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times.

On a stretch of clean, white Southern California beach, thousands of young Marines this month charged forward from the sea, leaping from helicopters and landing craft, echoing the exercises conducted decades before when Marines trained for Iwo Jima and Inchon. It was the largest and most complex amphibious exercise since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It also could be one of the last...

But the Marines have not stormed a hostile beach since Inchon during the Korean War. And influential military thinkers - including, most notably, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates - have begun to question whether the Marines will ever do it again.

In a speech last month, Gates said rogue nations and nonstate movements such as Hezbollah now possessed sophisticated guided missiles that could destroy naval ships, forcing them to stay well away from shore and making any sort of beach landing by Marines extremely dangerous. Countries including China and Iran have guided missiles and other defenses to deter a beach landing, said Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, who has written skeptically of traditional amphibious landings...

More at The Los Angeles Times.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 06/20/2010 - 9:33pm | 19 comments
We Can Still Win the War: Things are Grim in Afghanistan, But Victory Remains in Sight - John Nagl, New York Daily News opinion.

Recent reports from Afghanistan paint a dark picture of the counterinsurgency efforts in the Taliban-infected south and east of the country. This spring's operation in Marja, initially proclaimed a military success, sputtered when the Afghan "government in a box" failed to show up. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, after a positive visit to Washington, has demonstrated erratic behavior, including forcing the resignation of two of his best ministers. And the critical offensive in Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city and the historical cradle of the Taliban, has been postponed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of our efforts there. Some are suggesting that the "Afghan surge" announced by President Obama in December at West Point has failed even before all of the planned 30,000 reinforcements have arrived in the country.

Those skeptics may have forgotten that counterinsurgency is always slow and grinding - "like eating soup with a knife", in the words of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia), a man who knew something of this most challenging kind of war. Defeating an insurgency requires the patience to implement the classic "clear-hold-build-transition" counterinsurgency strategy. Efforts to clear the enemy from an area require large numbers of well-trained and usually foreign troops; hard as it is, clearing is the easy part. Success requires local troops to hold the area so that the insurgents cannot return to disrupt the process of building a better life for the population in the cleared area, which can then be transitioned to local control. Setbacks are likely at each stage of the process, but there are no shortcuts; defeating insurgents is hard, slow work.

Gen. David Petraeus, a man with some personal experience in counterinsurgency and the architect of our strategy in Afghanistan, testified during the darkest hours of our counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq that "hard is not hopeless." Hard is not hopeless in Afghanistan, either. Success there - defined as an Afghanistan that does not provide a haven for terror or destabilize the region and is able to secure itself with minimal outside assistance - remains a vital national interest of the United States...

More at The New York Daily News.

by SWJ Editors | Sun, 06/20/2010 - 6:47am | 0 comments
Violence Up Sharply in Afghanistan - Rod Nordland, New York Times.

With an average of an assassination a day and a suicide bombing every second or third day, insurgents have greatly increased the level of violence in Afghanistan, and have become by far the biggest killers of civilians here, the United Nations said in a report released publicly on Saturday. The report also confirms statistics from the NATO coalition, which claimed a continuing decrease in civilian deaths caused by the United States military and its allies. At the same time it blames stepped-up military operations for an overall increase in the violence.

Especially alarming were increases in suicide bombings and assassinations of government officials in a three-month period ending June 16, and a near-doubling of roadside bombings for the first four months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009. "The number of security incidents increased significantly, compared to previous years and contrary to seasonal trends," the report said, adding that most of this was a consequence of military operations in the southern part of the country, particularly Helmand and Kandahar Provinces, where increased NATO military operations have been under way since February...

More at the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Voice of America.

Report of the Secretary-General - United Nations

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 06/19/2010 - 10:49pm | 0 comments

GrEaT sAtAn"S gIrLfRiEnD
by SWJ Editors | Sat, 06/19/2010 - 9:51pm | 0 comments
Nader Uskowi and Mark Pyruz's Uskowi on Iran. The site lives up to its byline - Factual reporting and editorials on the current situation in Iran...
by Dave Dilegge | Sat, 06/19/2010 - 10:59am | 15 comments
I intended to link to two articles in the current issue of Joint Force Quarterly this morning by John Nagl and Gian Gentile but JFQ's current issue site is hard-down. In the meantime, please see Tristan Abbey's post featuring Brian McAllister Linn's take on issues raised by the articles at Stanford Review's Bellum.


Time for the Deconstruction of Field Manual 3-24 - Colonel Gian P. Gentile

The principles of population-centric counterinsurgency (COIN) have become transcendent in the U.S. Army and other parts of the greater Defense Establishment. Concepts such as population security, nationbuilding, and living among the people to win their hearts and minds were first injected into the Army with the publication of the vaunted Field Manual (FM) 3--24, Counterinsurgency, in December 2006. Unfortunately, the Army was so busy fighting two wars that the new doctrine was written and implemented and came to dominate how the Army thinks about war without a serious professional and public debate over its efficacy, practicality, and utility...

Constructing the Legacy of Field Manual 3-24 - Dr. John A. Nagl

In late 2005, then--Lieutenant General David Petraeus was appointed to lead the Army's Combined Arms Command at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. After two high-profile tours in Iraq, the posting to Fort Leavenworth was no one's idea of a promotion; the dominant local industry is prisons. But to his credit, General Petraeus recognized that this supposedly backwater assignment presented an opportunity to help revamp the Army's vision of and approach to the wars that it was struggling with in Iraq and Afghanistan. He called on his old West Point classmate, Dr. Conrad Crane, to take charge of a writing team that within just over a year produced Field Manual (FM) 3--24, Counterinsurgency, in conjunction with a U.S. Marine Corps team under the direction of Lieutenant General James Mattis...

Freeing the Army from the Counterinsurgency Straightjacket - Colonel Gian P. Gentile

In October 2006, while in command of a cavalry squadron in northwest Baghdad, I received an email with an attached document from my division commander, then--Major General James D. Thurman. General Thurman sent the email to all of the division's brigade and battalion commanders asking for input on the important document attached, which was a draft of Field Manual (FM) 3--24, Counterinsurgency. Over the next couple of weeks, I tried to read the draft manual closely and provide comments to the commanding general. Alas, though, like probably most of the other commanders, I was so busy carrying out a population-centric counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign on the ground in west Baghdad that I never found time to get to it. While anecdotal, my experience suggests a microcosm of the U.S. Army. The Army has been so busy since FM 3--24 came out 4 years ago that it has been unable to have a Service-wide dialogue on the manual...

Learning and Adapting to Win - Dr. John A. Nagl

Admiral Mullen highlights Clausewitz's dictum that war is not essentially "about death and destruction" but is fundamentally an instrument of policy designed to achieve political aims. It is this understanding of war that must drive how military strategy and doctrine are developed, and the metric against which they must be judged. The counterinsurgency field manual must therefore be evaluated against its record in assisting in the accomplishment of national objectives...

H/T to redactor, Robert Jordan Prescott and Dave Maxwell.

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 06/19/2010 - 7:02am | 3 comments
Anti-Taliban Tribal Militias Come with Baggage - Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times.

... The incident this year highlights the pitfalls of establishing militias in Afghanistan, a country marked by tribal rivalries, age-old feuds and warlords. In principle, the concept makes sense. Even as the United States sends tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, its forces cannot police every patch of a country about the size of Texas. The Afghan army and police remain a work in progress. Tribal militias represent a ready-made answer. In a society where firearms are prevalent, members are already well-armed. And they have an intimate knowledge of the lands they patrol.

But as anti-Taliban militias have surfaced here in Nangarhar province and several other areas of the country, they have been accompanied by a wide array of troubles, from armed robbery to an alleged gang-rape. Some experts and Afghan lawmakers believe a reliance on tribal militias to help combat an insurgency is the wrong approach, especially if governmental monitoring is scant or nonexistent...

More at The Los Angeles Times.

by SWJ Editors | Sat, 06/19/2010 - 5:18am | 0 comments
Pakistan, Afghanistan Begin Talks About Dealing with Insurgents - Karin Brulliard and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are talking about how to make peace with insurgents fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including one faction considered the coalition forces' most lethal foe, according to Pakistani and U.S. officials. The discussions reflect the beginnings of a thaw in relations between Kabul and Islamabad, which are increasingly focused on shaping the aftermath of what they fear could be a more abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops than is now anticipated. But one element of the effort - outreach by Pakistan to the militia headed by the young commander Sirajuddin Haqqani - faces opposition from U.S. officials, who consider the al-Qaeda-linked group too brutal to be tolerated.

At Pakistan's suggestion, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the chief of Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency, made an unprecedented trip last month to Kabul to discuss with Afghan President Hamid Karzai a wide range of possible cooperation, including mediating with Pakistan-based insurgents...

More at The Washington Post.

by Dave Dilegge | Fri, 06/18/2010 - 8:23pm | 4 comments
Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?


Crazy! I mean like so many positive waves maybe we can't lose!


There's no booze, there's no broads, there's no action!

That's another thing - don't fool around with the women. Their husbands carry guns. And don't forget, the penalty for looting is death.

Loot what? There's nothing here to loot!


God almighty, you guys smell like you fell into a dung heap!

Kinda makes ya homesick, don't it?


These engines are the fastest in any tanks in the European Theater of Operations, forwards or backwards. You see, man, we like to feel we can get out of trouble, quicker than we got into it.


Coulda been in the States playing ping-pong; volleyball... Plenty of broads... Who the hell needs all this? Gonna get my knife & get the hell outta here. Eaaa, lousy equipment! Now I gotta lift up this CANNON; carry it all the way to the front line someplace. Damned thing is heavier that Kelsey's burgers!


Sit down on this bench. I want you to have a drink.

Under the Geneva Convention...

This isn't Geneva...


I'm going to Battalion to see if I can get some dirty movies...