The U.S. military, Afghanistan, and change


NATO soldier training Afghan in the proper use of a rocket propelled grenade launcher – something I would not have expected they would need. 

Yesterday – or maybe the day before yesterday – we – that being the coalition forces or ISAF – bombed and killed , by error, a group of Afghan civilians and General McCrystal apologized. Personally! On Afghan National TV. This is the general who is accused of stonewalling the friendly fire killing of Spc. Pat Tillman and of abusing detainees in Iraq!  

And he was put there after firing the last commander, General David McKiernan. Firing a commander is pretty unusual in the Army and this was even more unusual because McKiernan was a classic Army commander who came up through the ranks in Armor. For at least the last 60 years, Armor has been the preferred path to promotion in the Army. Sort of like being an aircraft carrier guy in the Navy.

Then the Armor guy is replace by a Special Forces guy – or snake eater as they used to be called. And now the snake eater is apologizing for killing Afghans. The same day, the new Afghan governor – or mayor – moved into Marjah before the fighting even stopped. He came with a lot of money, is backed by the Marines, and supported by U.S. State Department personnel. 

This is an amazing change of attitude. A sea
the culture of the U.S. Military and the Army in particular. This is a huge bureaucratic organization that is totally changing in the middle of the dance. It is like General Motors changing to manufacturing only compact cars in 1995. (BTW as an example of how hard that is – The General just hired – as an consultant – the CEO the Obama administration forced them to fire last year.)

The military has gone from measuring success by high body counts, to courting the local  loyal jurga. I am astounded! And delighted at how serious and sincere the Obama Administration and the United States military is – even though I am still not convinced we should be there.

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