Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The intercontinental screwdriver

I almost didn't want to blog on this article by Rajiv Chandrasekaran (RC), but after reading RC's article a second time though, there are some things that I just cannot let stand.

First things first. I was a fan of ADM Mullen for only the first few months as CNO, but my confidence in him has done nothing but go south from there. The reasons are as clear as the cost overruns we have in shipbuilding, to what happened at Annapolis during his tenure, to the gallons of ball-sweat produced by the NWU and a few other items in between. The one thing that he has never been held to account for is the fact that he was an obstacle to the progress we made in Iraq in '07 - not a helper. Except for a few mentions in an article or two - he has received a complete pass.

With that said, let's look at a few pull quotes.
Gates and Mullen had been having doubts about McKiernan since the beginning of the year. They regarded him as too languid, too old-school and too removed from Washington. He lacked the charisma and political savvy that Gen. David H. Petraeus brought to the Iraq war.

McKiernan's answers that day were the tipping point for Mullen. Soon after, he discussed the matter with Gates, who had come to the same conclusion.

Mullen traveled to Kabul in April to confront McKiernan. The chairman hoped the commander would opt to save face and retire, but he refused. Not only had he not disobeyed orders, he believed he was doing what Gates and Mullen wanted.

You're going to have to fire me, he told Mullen.
McKiernan was the architect of the operations that are going on right now in Afghanistan. There was nothing old-school he was trying to do after taking over from Gen. McNeill.

Shape, clear, hold, and build? That is all McKiernan. The comprehensive and integrated approach? McKiernan. Trying to get European NATO to turn into the wind? McKiernan and Craddock.

The fact that it wasn't well known in the Pentagon, if RC's reporting is correct, just demonstrates how far removed those in DC were from Afghanistan and the operations there.

McKiernan was first and foremost the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan - that is the NATO head of all forces in Afghanistan. His chain-of-command went through Brussels, not Tampa-Washington. He didn't get responsibility C2-wise all USA forces until late '08 (that belonged to the USA 2-star in charge of the eastern part of AFG, HQ'd in Bagram), and didn't even have a half-functioning USA staff until well into 2QCY09. That is a fact. The "new" structure that created the new 3-star USA command is new and post-McKiernan; but that is C2-long-term structural changes, not what is being done on the ground.

I think that RC does not understand that timeline and that fact is smearing onto his reporting of CJCS and SECDEF because I simply cannot believe that they were not up to speed on that ..... unless the long-knives of the Army of the Potomac were not briefing them correctly.
In February, with a new administration in power, Obama ordered 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, giving McKiernan much -- but not all -- of what he wanted. He planned to send most of the new forces to the south, where Taliban attacks were becoming increasingly frequent and potent.
President Obama did nothing but give the final approval to the plan that was in development for the better part of a year under President Bush. The fact that RC and others continue to mis-report this is starting to give me the impression that it is intentional. This is a fact.
In Washington, doubts about McKiernan were growing among Gates and Mullen and their staffs. McKiernan's plan to integrate civilian and military resources, which Gates had asked him to draw up, did not impress many who read it in the Pentagon. Once again, they faulted McKiernan's perceived deference to NATO. What the document needed, they thought, was sharp thinking from the U.S. military, not a casserole of inputs from a dozen allies.
That plan was mostly written by the US military and is the plan being executed now. At this moment there are changes being made, as it should be, by the new commander in Kabul. These things take 6-mo to a year to effect on the ground. Another fact. In 6 months you will see the operational and strategic change from Gen. McChrystal. Everything you see right now is McKiernan.

As for the NATO smear - the USA gave AFG to NATO in '06. The multi-national stink was forced on McKiernan as most of his staff was non-USA -- again, not by his choice. To grow the USA staffing levels was McKiernan's idea --- one that only started growing fruit the month or so before he was fired.
The day before he left Kabul, McKiernan spoke to several hundred U.S. and NATO troops assembled in the courtyard in front of his office. "I don't want to leave," he told them. "There's work still to be done here. . . . But I'm a soldier and I live in a democracy and I work for political leaders, and when my political leaders tell me it's time to go, I must go."

The line of soldiers waiting to shake his hand continued for 90 minutes.
...and it would go on longer if it could because those who served for/with him know that the public reasons for his firing being said in open source were not reflected on the ground. Also, I know of no person who has worked for/with him that has anything bad to say about his performance professionally or personally.

RCs article has some good in it - but it is not the full and clear, spin-free story.

Somewhere out there is a smart 2LT or ENS (or maybe a 9th Grader) that in a decade or so will be sent on the taxpayer dime to get a PhD in history. He/she will do the digging and interviewing to get the full story. There will be a book on it.

Let me bet you Sid's new sailboat on something --- ADM Mullen will not come out smelling well.

I am sure ADM Mullen is doing the best he can. Sometimes though, people are just wrong. ADM Mullen was wrong about the Iraqi surge, and in this case he is wrong about McKiernan. Also rest assured, if he is sitting down with RC, you are getting just ADM Mullen's side of the story. It doesn't sound like McKiernan sad down with RC.

Classy on his part ... but that leaves the story for others.

Always remember, people are people. In a way, it reads that ADM Mullen did not understand GEN McKiernan because he was not "of DC." By that, we can assume that ADM Mullen is "of DC." That as well should flesh out some of the background here and the quotes.

Is that good or bad? Opinions differ. What I do know though is when a person is "of DC," you need to read carefully, and evaluate critically.
McChrystal's relationship with Mullen has resulted in a flow of personnel that eluded McKiernan. The chairman told McChrystal he could poach whomever he needed from the Joint Staff -- a list that now extends to about two dozen senior officers, including some of the military's best-regarded colonels.
My question to the Chairman - why didn't you give that service to McKiernan? As CJCS, isn't that your job ... through the COCOM (GEN Petraeus)? What stopped you from doing the same for McKiernan that you now offer to McChrystal? That quote above is d@mning to Mullen and the entire Joint Staff if it is even 51% accurate.

Let me leave you with a quote of truth.
The war in Afghanistan, he (McKiernan) said, "will not be decided by any one leader -- military or civilian -- from any one nation."
Yes, Uncle Sam is taking back the keys - but to turn the key we need the help of the international community.

Constantly spitting in the eye of our allies will soon leave us alone. Alone we will not win. Next year we will watch the Dutch and Canadians leave; who will follow?

No comments: