Thursday, October 9, 2008

U.S. Troops In Afghanistan Finally Have Their General

Amid all of the bailout and debate hullabaloo, an interesting piece of information about the war in Afghanistan has been overlooked. Apparently last Thursday, the U.S. Senate finally confirmed Gen. David McKiernan (not McLellan, as Sarah Palin called him) as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

Apparently, although McKiernan has been the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan for several months, until Thursday’s action he did not command all of the U.S. troops in that theater:
With more than 40 nations serving in Afghanistan, the force structure set up somehow evolved into a complex matrix. There are forces under ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) control, others under U.S. control. And nothing is a simple as it seems. Some of the 101st Airborne soldiers serving in Afghanistan reported to ISAF; others answered to McKiernan. And sometimes McKiernan answered to U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the region and other times he reported to U.S. European Command, which is in charge of NATO. It was so confusing that top officials at the Pentagon often got it wrong, especially when describing future deployments. Listen to Pentagon officials talk about it long enough and you will think they have switched topics and are describing Afghanistan’s complex, nuanced tribal system.

The Pentagon was eager to streamline the organizational chart and put McKiernan is charge of all U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It submitted its proposal to Congress Sept. 8. The hope was that this change would happen a few days after that. But then the bailout crisis happened and the Senate delayed the vote to debate the pending financial bill. 

But now, finally, McKiernan will only wear one hat and U.S. troops will answer to one commander. Now, if only they could streamline the strategy.

Dang. I don’t know how long it’s been like that, but considering the U.S. war in Afghanistan started October 7, 2001, you’d think the Pentagon would have wanted to streamline these operations sooner than last month.

Seriously, what’s up with that?

By the way, has anyone else noticed that we celebrated our seventh anniversary in Afghanistan this week?

Seven years!

And McKiernan warns it will get worse unless we provide more troops.

By all appearances it seems Afghanistan is America’s “forgotten war.” I can’t help but think we’d have finished our business there years ago if only there were some Overly Iridescent Leprechauns there. If you catch my drift.