A follow up to the President’s Plan

Yesterday I posted a blog entry about the President’s withdrawal plan from Afghanistan. Around the time I was posting that, apparently GEN Petraeus was testifying in front of the Senate committee which was confirming him as the head of the CIA. ‘

It appears that GEN Petraeus has the same reservations and concerns that ADM Mullen had.

Hours later in a Senate confirmation hearing on his nomination to be the next director of the CIA, GEN. David Petraeus, the current commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, nearly echoed ADM. Mullen word for word. “The ultimate decision was a more aggressive formulation than what we had recommended,” Petraeus said.

Gen. Petraeus said that over the past month he had a series of meetings with the president during which he recommended a number of different options for reducing the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, each with its own risk assessments.
Petraeus conceded that no general ever has all the troops and resources he wants, but when the president makes a decision “it is the responsibility of the military to salute smartly.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/06/23/military-leaders-would-have-handled-afghan-war-drawdown-differently/#ixzz1QCjXCDnt

So it is not just the SecDef, and Admiral Mullen warning that the President’s plan was too aggressive, but also the top combat commander in Afghanistan (the same guy that turned around and won Iraq and will soon be the CIA Director), GEN Petraeus. Yes it is ultimately the President’s choice, but that also means he can NEVER blame anything on anyone else, not on President Bush, not on GEN McChrystal, not on GEN Petraeus, not on ANYONE. This is HIS war to lose so I hope he realizes that and takes that to heart. 

The Professor

H/T to my good friend LL for this link.

Head over to http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2011/jan/18/professor-mcchrystal/ and check out a really good story on GEN (ret) McChrystal and how he has settled into his new job as a Professor at Yale. It was good to read that he appears as down to earth as a Professor as he did as a military leader.

McChrystal said the first day was easy. Of course, as with any new job, he had to learn where to go, what to do, how to talk. He needed to learn the location of his office and classroom (conveniently, right across the hallway).

According to Knight, the most difficult part of the first day as his student was the first few minutes before he entered the room. She likened the experience to her first day of former British prime minister Tony Blair’s “Faith and Globalization” class.

“When General McChrystal or Tony Blair walks in for the first time your heart just kind of stops for a second and you’re like, ‘Wow. This is someone that I admire,’” she said. “He knows a lot more than we do, and I certainly respect him for that, but at the same time I don’t feel so awed by star power that I am unable to ask questions because he’s presented himself as someone really accessible … This is one of the most pleasant and cohesive groups of people that I’ve sat in a room with.”

Knight said McChrystal began the first class by shaking each person’s hand and then asking them to go around the table and introduce themselves. He learned their names almost immediately.

Ok, what now?

1. So McChrystal is gone ( a serious mistake on the part of the President)
2. Petraeus has been demoted down to lead the fight in Afghanistan
3. Who will lead CENTCOM or are they expecting Petraeus who fainted last week before a Senate Committee to do both jobs?

And all of this as we now learn that June has been the deadliest month in this longest lasting war of our country’s history. http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/asia/Deadliest-Month-for-International-Troops-in-Afghanistan-97060264.html

I never guessed that Petraeus would be asked to step down and do this job, and God Bless the man for agreeing to do it. He is the best choice to try and keep the disruption of this abrupt change of command to as low as impact as possible on the troops.

So now I am waiting for that POS Eikenberry to be fired along with that ineffective Holbrooke. The relationship between the military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan is a two-way street. If the Ambassador and Special Envoy don’t get along with Karzai and cannot influence him or even get a meeting with him then they need to be FIRED asap and some people need to be put into place that can be effective at their job and get along with the military leadership.

If the current administration truly cares about Afghanistan, the progress there and our ability to eventually leave then they need to fire these two impudent men right NOW!

3rd Interview with BBC, World Have Your Say

For those that could not listen to the BBC’s World Have Your Say Radio program today, here is the link to the entire one hour show. A major part of the 2nd half-hour was taken up by the President’s speech announcing that he had fired GEN McChrystal.


GEN McChrystal speaks his mind, and Bouhammer Supports him-UPDATED

If you have been watching the news lately then you know that GEN McChrystal is on his way back to Washington, DC to get his butt chewed by the President. Looking at the critical time we are in with regards to Afghanistan and the technologies we have today, I am wondering why the President can’t just speak his mind over a secure video tele-conference. We have those with Afghanistan all the time

Do we really need to waste the time of the Commander of the war in Afghanistan by spending dozens of hours flying back and forth? Save the money, time and the environment and do it on a damn con call.

It is a shame that GEN McChrystal spoke his mind to a Rolling Stone reporter, of all people. I can’t say I blame GEN McChrystal at all, and I know the General feels bad that he said those to a journalist as he has already apologized. We really don’t have time for all of these distractions as there is something more important to focus on….fighting the war. I mean even Sen John Kerry made that statement this morning.

Everything the General said is true, so you can’t blame him for making stuff up. He just spoke his mind. I have made my opinions of Eikenberry more than clear on this blog. You can click http://www.bouhammer.com/?s=Eikenberry&submit=Go and see a collection of blogs I have written about him. The most prominent one on that list is http://www.bouhammer.com/2010/05/the-war-between-mcchrystal-and-eikenberry/ which I wrote back in May. Not meaning to sound like the “Blame Bush” crowd, but I can tell you that what McChrystal and even McKiernan have dealt with are a direct result of Eikenberry’s inept leadership and misguided management of the war while he was in command from 2004-2007. It was Eikenberry himself that “faked” progress in Afghanistan and why we find ourselves still there today as engaged as we are.

If you would like to know more about how I feel and what I think on this matter, I invite you to tune into the BBC tonight at 7:10 EST PM. I will be interviewed on the BBC program “The World Today” in reference to this whole matter. You can listen live at http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/news/2009/03/000000_world_today.shtml

The war between McChrystal and Eikenberry

I have made it very clear on this blog and to many that I have talked to that I never have and never will like Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. I wrote about him here, $5 billion unspent by the Anti-Morale Device as one example. When he was the Commander in Afghanistan (for 3 years) he grossly mis-managed the war effort. He tried to implement a false sense of success. This is why ADM Mullen stated in 2007 that the war was not managed correctly for the previous 3 years.

Eikenberry was known on Camp Eggers and by his staff as the “Commander, Morale Suppression Team”. When he was not on the Camp all of his staff celebrated. One time he came down to my FOB to talk to some of the guys on the “tip of the spear” my ETT team. We welcomed the chance to tell him the real deal ground truth. However right before he showed up we were told he did not want to hear bad news or anyone talking bad about Afghans. He only wanted “good news stories”. After my team spoke a few expletives, we all went back to our rooms and said to let us know when he was gone so we could come out again. If he didn’t want the truth, then we had no reason to talk to him. The I saw his path of destruction first hand and have ZERO respect for him.

So, needless to say this great Op-Ed from Trudy Rubin (who’s opinions and insight into Afghanistan I love to read) I knew I had to write about it.

Perhaps the most surprising divergence between the two men is their approach to Karzai. Eikenberry the diplomat (who is also a retired general and former U.S. commander in Kabul) has a strained relationship with the Afghan leader. McChrystal, the general, diplomatically praises Karzai in public and has encouraged him to take a more active role in efforts to stabilize Kandahar. The general has perhaps the best relationship with Karzai of any U.S. official.

After the unproductive war of words between the White House and Karzai, the administration seems to have adopted the McChrystal approach of public praise, while reserving tough talk for private meetings.

But it’s disconcerting to see the top two U.S. civilian and military officials working on such different wavelengths. If U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is to be effective, they must work as a team.

She has outed some of the behind the scenes issues between a guy who was mistakenly put into place as an Ambassador to Afghanistan after he mis-handled the war there for three years and a guy who is there doing great things and oh by the way, got his fourth star out of this command. If you ask me Karl (E3) Eikenberry is just as full of hate and jealousy towards GEN McChrystal as he was towards US Military who tried to hold Afghans accountable for their substandard performance.

Read Trudy’s entire Op-Ed HERE.

Does General McChrystal read Bouhammer.com?

I talked about One of the Worst Ideas Ever! the other day on this blog when it was recommended to have a medal or award an existing medal to troops for NOT SHOOTING. In fact in that blog post I pleaded with GEN McChrystal to shoot that idea down.

I have a lot of respect for Gen McChrystal and know he is trying hard to avoid civilian casualties but there is no zero tolerance when you talk about the fluidness of combat. Gen McChrysal I plead to you to shoot down this dumb idea. You, as a warfighter yourself, know damn well that the troops on the battlefield don’t give a crap about an award. They need training, leadership and if applicable, the right technologies to try and avoid as many civilian casulties as possible.

I am not sure if he reads the blog here at Bouhammer.com (Lord knows I would be honored and flattered beyond all belief if he did), or if he is as smart as I though he is and employs common sense with all his decision. But I pleaded and he has voiced his opinion on the matter. I am glad to see him feel the same way I do. There are reasons and ways to recognize bravery and courage on the battlefield of all types without having to create a medal or categorize a justification as “not shooting”.

Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal may have put the kibosh on plans to establish a valor award for troops who hold fire rather than risk the lives of innocents.

Talk of a so-called Courageous Restraint Medal has gotten a great deal of attention in the past 24-hiours, especially since radio talker Rush Limbaugh took the airwaves on May 12 to blast the concept. The story seemed to have merit since an Air Force officer was quoted in news reports as saying such an award “is consistent” with Coalition forces’ approach to defeating the insurgency while limiting civilian casualties.

But McChrystal, who is leading coalition forces in Afghanistan, told reporters during a press conference at the Pentagon today that the military does not need a new medal to recognize a particular kind of valor.

Today, however, in reply to a reporter’s question about the rumored medal, McChrystal said the military already has “a number of ways to recognize courage.”
“And I think courage in uniform can come under enemy fire in the most traditional ways or if u come under actions that may not be as expected or as traditional and involve killing,” he said. “It may involve protecting civilians.”

He referred to a photo that came out of the fighting in Marjah, in which a Marine is seen using his own body to shield an Afghan man and child from harm.
“He wasn’t shooting anyone, he didn’t kill any Taliban,” McChrystal said of the Marine, “but I would argue that he showed as much courage as any that I’ve seen on the battlefield.”
“So when you talk about courage, I don’t’ think we need a ‘different’ medal to differentiate different kinds of courage.”

The idea for the medal originated with British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, NATO commander of troops in southern Afghanistan, according to a May 5 report in The Daily Mail. The British paper said Carter floated the idea during a visit to Kandahar in April by British Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Hall.

British and U.S. forces have accidentally killed innocents in the past, with those incidents sparking outrage among the civilian population that Coalition forces are trying to win over.
While some have said there is merit to recognizing that courage is involved when a soldier does not open fire on questionable targets, the flip side is that troops may put themselves and allies in jeopardy by second-guessing threats or reacting too slowly.

One of the worst ideas ever!

You have got to be kidding me? Promising awards to soldiers for “not shooting”!

NATO commanders are weighing a new way to reduce civilian casualties in Afghanistan: recognizing troops for “courageous restraint” if they avoid using force that could endanger innocent lives.

That is as dumb as what Shinsenki did when he came up with the idea of the Black Beret. He did that because he saw how proud and great looking Special Operations troops looked in their berets so he wanted the whole Army to have them. The thought that a soldier will be more professional or proud looking because of a piece of wool on their head was as foolish then as it is now.

The idea that the promise of an award will be in the decision making process of taking a human life is flippin’ ludicrous.

Anyone that has been in a TIC or firefight (as they are commonly known as) can tell you that when you are behind cover, returning fire and being fired on, the last FRIGGEN thing you are thinking of is “I wonder what medal I will get out of this”. IT JUST DOES NOT HAPPEN. If someone is thinking that, then they are truly not engaged in the battle.

I don’t know anything about the British Army award system, but I would hope they have enough to recognize their troops that they are not that desperate to have to come up with one in order to award soldiers for not shooting. I am glad it was not an American leader that came up with this, but it bothers me that GEN McChrystal or CSM Hall may actually even be considering this.

It appears the original idea came from a CAAT team, which is even more scary as CAAT teams are supposed to be subject matter experts in COIN and all ex-senior leaders and warfighters themselves.

The idea of using awards as another way to encourage soldiers to avoid civilian casualties came from a team that advises NATO on counterinsurgency, or COIN, doctrine, said an official with knowledge of the process. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposal is still under review.
“We routinely and systematically recognize valor, courage and effectiveness during kinetic combat operations,” said a statement recently posted on the NATO coalition’s website by the group, the Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team.

A soldier does not engage targets of opportunity (i.e. human beings) to kill them or not engage and at the same time worry about a damn medal or recognition from his/her command. In fact this idea is essentially a slap in the face and a huge sign of disrespect towards our American fighting men and women to think that is what they need to keep from killing civilians.

Our troops don’t want to kill civilians, period. They don’t sign up hoping to or dream of it while deployed. If anything, they fear that as one of their greatest fears. And if they end up doing it, they usually have nightmares about it for a very long time, if not for life. There are many I know who are dealing with decision they have made which took the life of innocent civilians years after having to do it and they were completely justified in their actions.

But some U.S. Army soldiers here at Forward Operating Base Ramrod in Kandahar province are skeptical that the chance of winning an award is going to change the way troops make decisions on the battlefield.

“Not a single one of these guys does it for the medals,” said Capt. Edward Graham, referring to the soldiers in his company.

Graham, whose company is part of the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, said soldiers are constantly forced to weigh the duty they have to protect their colleagues against the goal of avoiding civilian casualties.

“The bottom line is I have to find a way to go to sleep at night,” said Graham. “If I hurt women and children, I’m not going to sleep. If I lose my men, I’m not going to sleep. I have to find a balance.”

I have a lot of respect for Gen McChrystal and know he is trying hard to avoid civilian casualties but there is no zero tolerance when you talk about the fluidness of combat. Gen McChrysal I plead to you to shoot down this dumb idea. You, as a warfighter yourself, know damn well that the troops on the battlefield don’t give a crap about an award. They need training, leadership and if applicable, the right technologies to try and avoid as many civilian casulties as possible.

Read the entire story at http://ap.stripes.com/dynamic/stories/A/AS_AFGHAN_COURAGEOUS_RESTRAINT?SITE=DCSAS