Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Af-Pak: McChrystal Choice Suggests Special Ops Strikes to Continue

While the Obama administration says it wants its new commander in Afghanistan to carry out politically sensitive counterinsurgency tactics, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal has no experience in nonmilitary tactics, and has been challenged over detainee abuses and aggressive raids against civilians.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

(Inter Press Service)

The choice of Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to become the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan has been hailed by Defense 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 specialization in counterterrorism operations suggests an officer who is likely to have more interest in targeted killings than in the kind of politically sensitive counterinsurgency programs 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 have 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.”

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 counterterrorism operations, not on counterinsurgency.

Whereas counterinsurgency operations are aimed primarily at influencing the population and are primarily nonmilitary, counterterrorism operations are exclusively military and focus on targeting the “enemy.”

As commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) from April 2003 to August 2008, he was preoccupied with pursuing high value Al Qaeda targets and local and national insurgent leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan—mostly through targeted raids and airstrikes.

It was under McChrystal’s command, in fact, that JSOC shifted away from the very mission of training indigenous military units in counterinsurgency operations that had been a core mission of Special Operations Forces.

McChrystal spent an unusual five years as commander of JSOC, because he had become a close friend of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld came to view JSOC as his counter to the covert ops capabilities of the CIA, which he distrusted, and he used JSOC to capture or kill high value enemy leaders, including Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda’s top leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

In 2005, JSOC’s parent command, the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), was directed by Rumsfeld to “plan, synchronize and, as directed, conduct global operations against terrorist networks in coordination with other combatant commanders.” That directive has generally been regarded as granting SOCOM the authority to carry out actions unilaterally anywhere on the globe.

Under that directive, McChyrstal and JSOC carried out targeted raids and other operations against suspected Taliban in Afghanistan, which were not coordinated with the commander of other U.S. forces in the country. Gen. David Barno, a former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has said that he put a stop to targeted airstrikes in early 2004, but they resumed after he was replaced by McKiernan in 2005.

U.S. airstrikes which have caused hundreds of civilian deaths have become a major political issue in Afghanistan and the subject of official protests by Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as by the lower house of the Afghan parliament. Many of the airstrikes and commando raids that have caused large-scale civilian deaths have involved Special Operations forces operating separately from the NATO command.

Special Operations forces under McChrystal’s command also engaged in raiding homes in search of Taliban suspects, angering villagers in Herat province to the point where they took up arms against the U.S. forces, according to a May 2007 story by Carlotta Gall and David E. Sanger of the New York Times.

After a series of raids by Special Operations forces in Afghanistan in late 2008 and early 2009 killed women and children, to mounting popular outrage, McChrystal’s successor as commander of JSOC, Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, ordered a temporary reduction in the rate of such commando raids in mid-February for two weeks.

However, the JSOC raids resumed at their original intensity in March. Later that month Gen. David Petraeus issued a directive putting all JSOC operations under McKiernan’s tactical command, but there has been no evidence that the change has curbed the raids by Special Operations Forces.

President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones responded to Karzai’s demand for an end to U.S. airstrikes by saying, “We’re going to take a look at trying to make sure that we correct those things we can correct, but certainly to tie the hands of our commanders and say we’re not going to conduct air strikes, it would be imprudent.”

The airstrike in western Farah province that killed nearly 150 civilians last week, provoking protests by hundreds of university students in Kabul, was also ordered by Special Operations Forces.

McChrystal’s nomination to become director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon in May 2008 was held up for months while the Senate Armed Services Committee investigated a pattern of abuse of detainees by military personnel under his command. Sixty-four service personnel assigned or attached to Special Operations units were disciplined for detainee abuse between early 2004 and the end of 2007.

Capt. Carolyn Wood, an operations officer with the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, gave military investigators a sworn statement in 2004 in which she said she had drawn guidance for interrogation from a directive called “TF-121 IROE,” which had been given to the members of Task Force 121, a unit directly under JSOC.

However, the military refused to make that document public, despite requests from the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights groups, protecting McChrystal from legal proceedings regarding his responsibility for detainee abuses.

He was never held accountable for those abuses, supposedly because of the secrecy of the operation of JSOC.

Although he has been linked with detainee abuses and raids that killed considerable numbers of civilians, McChrystal has not had any direct experience with the nonmilitary elements of counterinsurgency strategy.

W. Patrick Lang, formerly the defense intelligence officer for the Middle East, suggested in his blog on May 11 that the McChrystal nomination “sounds like a paradigm shift in which Obama’s policy of destroying the leadership of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan takes priority over everything else.”

The choice of McChrystal certainly appears to signal the administration’s readiness to continue the special ops raids and airstrikes that are generating growing Afghan opposition to the U.S. military presence.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and two-time failed presidential candidate, is a foreign policy hawk with neoconservative leanings who appears set to become the next senator from Utah.


Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman and longtime “superlobbyist” who has supported numerous neoconservative advocacy campaigns, has become embroiled in the special prosecutor’s investigation into the Donald Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.


Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


RightWeb
share