Command Structure Changes for Afghanistan?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

In Changes for Petraeus and Odierno: The Challenges Ahead, while discussing the recent flurry of events surrounding the announcements concerning CENTCOM and MNF, we said that Petraeus:

… inherits a campaign in Afghanistan that not only languishes for forces and force projection, but in which NATO is an impediment to success rather than a catalyst.  Strategy in the Afghanistan campaign is a byword and up for sale to the most troublesome child, and thus U.S. forces are in constant debates over everything from tactics to radio frequencies.

Either someone is listening or our warnings are prescient.  Just today it was announced that there may be command structure changes for Operation Enduring Freedom.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Pentagon officials are discussing possible changes to the NATO and coalition command structure in Afghanistan. But he says the United States is not ready to make a formal proposal to its allies. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon …

Central Command normally supervises U.S. military involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But a year and a half ago most of the international forces in Afghanistan, including most of the U.S. troops, were put under NATO control, leaving the Central Command chief outside their chain of command.

That is something Secretary Gates says U.S. officials might want to change.

“There’s been a lot of discussion in this building about whether we have the best possible command arrangements in Afghanistan,” said Secretary Gates. “I’ve made no decisions. I’ve made no recommendations to the president. We’re still discussing it.”

Afghanistan currently has a dual command structure, with some of the 35,000 U.S. troops, and some forces from other nations, still under the original U.S.-led coalition that invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Some officers complain that the dual command is not as effective or coordinated as it should be. But Secretary Gates says it may be difficult to change.

“The command structure, I think, is a sensitive matter in terms of the eyes of our allies,” he said. “And so if there were to be any discussion of changes in the command structure, it would require some pretty intensive consultations with our allies and discussion about what makes sense going forward.”

One option might be to make ISAF the command equivalent of MNF and allow NATO to perform overall operational command in terms of public affairs, logistics, force protection, etc., and place U.S. commanders out from under the direct operational control of NATO, i.e., organizationally, U.S. troops would only be matrixed to NATO for certain functions and operations.  The strategy, operational decision-making and direct organizational command would come from CENTCOM, and thus Petraeus would ultimately be in charge of the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan (kinetic operations, reconstruction, transition teams, etc.).

The Captain’s Journal doesn’t know exactly what will happen, but this we do know based on the debacle we have witnessed to get the Marines into action in the theater.  Changes will come and the COIN campaign will be conducted, strategically speaking, by the U.S., or it will not succeed.


You are currently reading "Command Structure Changes for Afghanistan?", entry #1058 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,CENTCOM,Counterinsurgency and was published April 24th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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