It’s funny, but it never crossed my mind that David McKiernan was a lousy general. Indeed, I thought he was one the most outstanding officers in the U.S. Army. And even though I keep myself pretty well informed about the war in Afghanistan, I never realised that the campaign was run so badly as to warrant a spectacularly humiliating, career-busting kick in the ass for the commander in Kabul. And yet, surely this must be the case — why else would the Secretary of Defense publicly sack McKiernan? I mean, he wouldn’t do it, say, because all else has failed, right?
A whole bunch of swooning profiles have been written on Stanley McChrystal, and by all means, admire the guy as much as you like, but there’s one little thing you ought to keep in mind: In addition to American troops, McChrystal will be commanding tens of thousands of soldiers, with varying degrees of experience, training and stamina, from — wait for it — 41 countries. As ISAF commander, he will have to deal with a ragtag international force most of which won’t deploy into combat. He will have under his command not only Americans under constant fire in the Korengal but also Poles and Germans and Finns and Swedes who for political reasons won’t join the fight. He might be an American hero, but last I checked, this isn’t only America’s war.
“The Pope” will have other problems, too. For starters, he will have to order his subordinates to start spelling the name of the country right: it’s not Iraq, it’s A-F-G-H-A-N-I-S-T-A-N. Seriously, listening to all the self-proclaimed experts now voicing their opinions on Afghanistan, you’d think they’re still in Baghdad, circa 2007. The surge was great and all, but if you want to get to know your current AO, you need to stop sounding like a dork muttering his ex-girlfriend’s name in his sleep. (Hint: There’s no sectarian civil war in Afghanistan, so looking at civilian casualties as a metric is a waste of time.)