A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, May 11, 2009

More on the Change of Command

I've been thinking a bit more about the replacement of General McKiernan with General McChrystal (see immediately prior post). I'm struck by the fact that this comes within days of the visit of Presidents Karzai and Zardari to Washington, and that Karzai has often complained about Afghan civilian casualties. (The US seems to have bombed a surprisingly large number of weddings, for example.) I'm wondering if Karzai had complaints about the command of ISAF.

On the other hand, I think it's clear that David Petraeus, since arriving at CENTCOM, has begun spreading the counterinsurgency gospel to Afghanistan as well. Since McChrystal has a Special Forces background, while McKiernan spent a lot of time in armored units and commanded ground forces in the invasion of Iraq, a more conventional-warfare oriented career track, this could really be Petraeus putting his own stamp on things.

Still, it's unusual to change commanders with this suddenness in wartime; strictly speaking McKiernan wasn't relieved of command so much as asked to step aside; he will retain command until McChrystal is ready to assume command. It still carries the appearance of a professional rebuke.

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