Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Locking The Barn Door, Belatedly

We've been at war in Afghanistan for over eight years, and we are no closer to "winning" that war than we were a year ago when President Obama took office and declared that this war was the good one and he intended to prosecute it vigorously. Gen. McChrystal, the man in charge in Afghanistan, has found his job more difficult, primarily because he isn't exactly "in charge" of all the forces.

From the NY Times:

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has brought most American Special Operations forces under his direct control for the first time, out of concern over continued civilian casualties and disorganization among units in the field. ...

Critics, including Afghan officials, human rights workers and some field commanders of conventional American forces, say that Special Operations forces have been responsible for a large number of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan and operate by their own rules.

Maj. Gen. Zahir Azimi, the chief spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, said that General McChrystal had told Afghan officials he was taking the action because of concern that some American units were not following his orders to make limiting civilian casualties a paramount objective. ...

General McChrystal has made reducing civilian casualties a cornerstone of his new counterinsurgency strategy, and his campaign has had some success: last year, civilian deaths attributed to the United States military were cut by 28 percent, although there were 596 civilian deaths attributed to coalition forces, according to United Nations figures. Afghan and United Nations officials blame Special Operations troops for most of those deaths.
[Emphasis added]

The article described three horrific operations which, because of the outrage among the Afghans, prompted Gen. McChrystal's decision. Still, it's not like the general wasn't aware of the fact that the Special Operations troops have been running amok. His last job was commanding those forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He had to have known the way they operate.

Will forcing those troops to report directly to him change things? Will this bring the notion of accountability to them? Probably not.

And this is the "Good War."



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