7 years ago
About one month ago I had some very specific questions concerning OPCON. After three attempts to get General McChrystal’s PAO to respond, I finally received this. As I stipulated in the original article, I will post the entire response without editorial comment.
General McChrystal is currently out of the country. I assume you’ve been following this issue closely, so I also assume that you know that the Commander has addressed this question several times previously.
Operational control of Marine or special operations forces is not based on concern about these forces “going rogue” or underperforming in recent operations. It is about unity of command and effort, which has been an
enduring concern with the nations and branches supporting operations in Afghanistan and was identified as an area of improvement in General McChrystal’s August 2009 initial assessment.
To use a musical analogy, the best violin and cello and trumpet and drum players in the world don’t make a world-class orchestra until they’re playing under a conductor who can integrate individual talents into the opportunities and challenges of a particular composition. In the case of Afghanistan, those opportunities and challenges are best understood and addressed by the theater commander responsible for integrating localized security efforts into comprehensive improvements in security and Afghan capacity across the country.
Advocates of withholding OPCON from the theater commander will argue that forces can be trusted to be team players under different command arrangements. As you point out, this trust has been justified in the past, although personally I don’t know whether operational success can be attributed to exceptional command arrangements or whether such success occurs despite these arrangements. Nevertheless, what advocates often overlook is that the trust that they expect from theater commanders is a two-way street, and there is no great risk in giving theater commanders the benefit of the doubt in that relationship. Providing OPCON to a theater commander does not mean that that commander will be prone to ignore the lessons of history and misuse uniquely capable forces, any more than withholding OPCON will risk having component commanders use those forces in a doctrinally correct but ultimately counterproductive ways because of the component commander’s relative ignorance of the operational situation.
You must first read the original article in order to understand this response. The reader can judge the clarity and adequacy of this response for himself.