Obama’s Choice for Top Afghan Commander Suggests Special Ops Strikes to Continue
by Gareth Porter
12 May 09 | IPS
The choice of Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to become the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan has been hailed by Defence Secretary Robert Gates and national news media as ushering in a new unconventional approach to counterinsurgency.
But McChrystal’s background sends a very different message from the one claimed by Gates and the news media. His long specialisation in counter-terrorism operations suggests an officer who is likely to have more interest in targeted killings than in the kind of politically sensitive counterinsurgency programmes that the Obama administration has said it intends to carry out.
In announcing the extraordinary firing of Gen. David McKiernan and the nomination of McChrystal to replace him, Gates said that the mission in Afghanistan “requires new thinking and new approaches by our military leaders” and praised McChrystal for his “unique skill set in counterinsurgency”.
Media reporting on the choice of McChrystal simply echoed the Pentagon’s line. The Washington Post said his selection “marks the continued ascendancy of officers who have pressed for the use of counterinsurgency tactics, in Iraq and Afghanistan, that are markedly different from the Army’s traditional doctrine”.
The New York Times cited unnamed “Defense Department officials” in reporting, “His success in using intelligence and firepower to track and kill insurgents, and his training in unconventional warfare that emphasizes the need to protect the population, made him the best choice for the command in Afghanistan…”
The Wall Street Journal suggested that McChrystal was the kind of commander who would “fight the kind of complex counterinsurgency warfare” that Gates wants to see in Afghanistan, because his command of Special Operations forces in Iraq had involved “units that specialize in guerilla warfare, including the training of indigenous armies”.
But these explanations for the choice of McChrystal equate his command of the Special Operations forces with expertise on counterinsurgency, despite the fact that McChrystal spent his last five years as a commander of Special Operations forces focusing overwhelmingly on counter-terrorism operations, not on counterinsurgency.
Whereas counterinsurgency operations are aimed primarily at influencing the population and are primarily non-military, counter-terrorism operations are exclusively military and focus on targeting the “enemy”. >>>
- Did Newly Announced Top Afghan General Run ‘Cheney’s Assassination Wing’, Cover Up Tillman Murder? (12 May 09)