Archive for the 'Petraeus' Category

U.S. Seeks Sweeping Changes in Command Structure for Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 7 months ago

About five months ago The Captain’s Journal published Command Structure Changes for Afghanistan, which Glenn Reynolds linked at Instapundit. We were prescient and properly predicted that in order to give General Petraeus the power and authority to implement a coherent counterinsurgency strategy with unity of effort throughout the organization, U.S. forces would need to be completely under his command at CENTCOM. Glenn had a nose for news too in taking interest in this subject, and it appears that the U.S. is pushing for just what we recommended (and even a little beyond).

The Bush administration is pushing for sweeping changes to the military command structure in Afghanistan, so that the head of international forces would report directly to US Central Command instead of Nato.

The changes would have huge repercussions for Nato, whose officials have stated that Afghanistan is a “defining moment” for the organisation’s ability to conduct large-scale operations abroad.

The Independent has learnt that the proposal to streamline the complex chain of command, enabling US General David McKiernan to be answerable to superiors at Centcom in Tampa, Florida, rather than Nato, is before Robert Gates, the American Defence Secretary.

Mr Gates is due in the UK today after a visit to Afghanistan where he spoke about the deteriorating security situation with senior Western officers and Afghan ministers. At the same time, in a mark of the seriousness with which the Americans view the situation, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, flew to Pakistan from where Taliban fighters are mounting cross-border raids.

Any move to make the Afghan war an American-run operation would be controversial in some Nato countries. There is already public disquiet in countries such as Italy, Germany and Canada over the conflict.

Nevertheless, altering the command structure is an option in a wide-ranging plan by Washington to acquire greater control of the mission in Afghanistan. A violent Taliban resurgence has made the past three months the most lethal for Western forces. President George Bush has recently announced that several thousand troops will be moved from Iraq to Afghanistan, and General David Petraeus, who led the “surge” in Iraq, credited with reducing the violence there, is returning to the US in overall charge of both missions.

But it is the proposed change to the command structure in Afghanistan which is seen by the Americans as crucial to whether or not the Afghan mission succeeds. Officials point out that in Iraq, General Petraeus was in sole command, which allowed him to carry out his counter-insurgency plan. In Afghanistan, however, different Nato countries are in charge of different regions, often with different rules. Forty nations ranging from Albania and Iceland to the US and Britain are involved in Afghan operations. The force in southern Afghanistan, the main theatre of combat, includes troops from Britain, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Australia, Romania and nine other nations.

US forces sent to Afghanistan recently from Iraq claimed that operations were being stymied because of the multi-layered command structure. Colonel Anthony Anderson, commander of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines complained publicly: “We are trying to keep our frustration in check … but we have to wait for the elephants to stop dancing”, a reference to the alleged clumsiness of the international command.

Lt Col Brian Mennes, commander of Task Force Fury, a parachute battalion serving in Kandahar, said at the end of his tour: “We don’t understand where we are going here, we desperately want to see a strategy in front of us.”

The British and Canadians are contributing mightily to the campaign in Afghanistan. But as examples of strategic incoherence, the German rules of engagement only allows firing in self defense, and Australian infantry troops are required to sign formal documents declaring that they have not provoked combat operations (their special forces are the only troops allowed to engage in kinetic operations).

Without drastic changes in the nature of the mission of NATO troops, it is doubtful that even placing them under the command of General Petraeus will change much. This is partly why we have recommended more U.S. troops. Petraeus must have access to resources that will operate with regard to unity of command, unity of strategy and unity of mission. Time is short in the campaign, Pakistan’s intentions cannot be trusted, and the security situation is degrading.

General David Petraeus and Religion

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 8 months ago recently carried this ridiculous account of a dustup over General Petraeus and religion.

Gen. David Petraeus is used to controversy surrounding the war in Iraq, but his publicized thoughts on an Army chaplain’s book for Soldiers put him squarely in the middle of the ongoing conflict over religious proselytizing in the U.S. military.

The book is “Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel,” by Army Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William McCoy, and according to Petraeus’ published endorsement of the work, “it should be in every rucksack for those times when soldiers need spiritual energy.”

But the endorsement – which has spurred a demand by a watchdog group for Petraeus’ dismissal and court martial on the grounds of establishing a religious requirement on troops – was a personal view never intended for publication, the book’s author now says.

“In the process of securing … comments for recommending the book I believe there was a basic misunderstanding on my part that the comments were publishable,” McCoy said in an Aug. 19 email to “This was my mistake.”

In addition to Petraeus, Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling also is quoted plugging the book in press releases and advertisements and on the jacket.

McCoy, writing in response to’s Aug. 18 inquiry to Petraeus’ office for comment, said the two generals’ endorsements “were intended for me personally rather than for the general public.”

In response to follow-up questions from, McCoy said he has asked that all distribution of the book be halted until a new “graphic overlay” for the back cover is produced “so there is no further public misunderstanding.”

McCoy did not respond to questions on the timing of the endorsements, and why it took so long before the officials learned their endorsement has been used in print. Petraeus’ endorsement has been on the book since its 2007 publication, while Hertling’s plug first appeared on the 2005 edition. Both also are quoted in newspaper ads for the book and on the book’s Web page.

Patraeus spokesman Col. Steven Boylan said the general has been Iraq since the beginning of February 2007, “and unless someone [like] notes it, we would not be aware of it,” he said in an Aug. 19 email. “We don’t get the stateside papers in Baghdad and I doubt very much that Gen. Petraeus goes to much, if at all.”

Mikey Weinstein, head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, believes McCoy is taking the fall for Petraeus and Hertling’s improper endorsements. Weinstein said it “strains credulity” that Petraeus never knew that his private written endorsement of the book was in the public domain since last year.

Weinstein is a former Air Force judge advocate general and White House counsel during the Reagan administration. His group has been fighting in the courts to keep improper proselytizing out of the military. Now, he said, he intends to incorprate the Petraeus and Hertling endorsements into an ongoing lawsuit against the Pentagon for an alleged pervasive and permicious “pattern and practice” of religious liberties violations in the military.

What a idiot – Weinstein, that is. Let’s cover some basics before we offer a terse response to him. The basics has to do with some brief observations by Rousas John Rushdoony concerning religion and the American system.

I first encountered Rushdoony at L’Abri, a Christian community high in the Swiss Alps. The year was 1964. Francis Schaeffer, the founder and director of L’Abri, had recently come across a little book by Rushdoony called This Independent Republic: Studies in the Nature and Meaning of American History, and he made it the basis for a seminar with the students at L’Abri. We gathered in the living room of Chalet les Mélèzes, where most of the community’s meetings were held. It was before Schaeffer became a popular sage for many evangelical Christians, and so we could study such a text informally, though we always did so with care.

The topics covered in the Rushdoony book were wide-ranging. The chapter that Schaeffer chose for the subject of his seminar focused on the difference between the American and the French Revolutions. Drawing on scholars such as Peter Drucker and James C. Malin, Rushdoony challenged the propriety of calling America’s defensive war against Great Britain a true revolution. According to him it was instead a “conservative counterrevolution,” whose purpose was to preserve American liberties from their usurpation by the British Parliament. It owed nothing to the Enlightenment. By contrast, the French Revolution was the direct result of the Enlightenment, along with the organizational strategies fostered by various secret and esoteric societies.

Though at the time I was too much a novice in history to judge the accuracy of his thesis, I was drawn to the clarity and cogency of Rushdoony’s arguments. Those were heady days at L’Abri, which in the sixties was a seedbed for ideas that captivated our imaginations and sought to link every area of our lives to a Christian worldview. A Christian historiography containing such a powerful critique of the point of view most of us received in school was for me a great stimulation. Rushdoony taught us that the American Constitution, with its eloquent absence of references to Christian faith, was a secular document only in appearance. In fact, it was deliberately fashioned as a minimalist document by men of genius whose primary purpose was to ensure the vitality of local government. Here Rushdoony added a distinctive perspective, one which would become a leitmotif throughout his long career, and one which would have a wide impact on other figures in his circle.

In Rushdoony’s view, the Constitution did not need to include a Christian confession because the states were already a Christian establishment or settlement. The First Amendment prohibited laws respecting the establishment of religion because religion was already established at the local level. There were sabbath rules, religious tests for citizenship, laws regarding heterosexual fidelity, blasphemy laws-all of them strongly connected to biblical law. The First Amendment was intended to protect the states from interference by the federal government.

The confusion of church and state would involve, for example, sanctioning a particular denomination such that they got financial breaks (e.g., viz. taxes) that other denominations did not. Public displays of religion, or the notion of a world view as the basis for a system of laws, is not breaking the barrier between the institutions of church and state. Further, barriers between church and government are not the same as barriers between religion and laws. All laws are based on some world view, and America has as the basis for its system of laws Judeo-Christian philosophy.

Now. Given this as backdrop, it makes no sense whatsoever for Mr. Weinstein to be troubling himself and us so with such childish arguments. He should find a way to contribute to the global war on terror, and quit pestering General Petraeus. Weinstein has officially become annoying to TCJ. The good General endorsed a particular book as good for his soul. So what? Doesn’t Weinstein have to go cut his grass or take out the trash, or something else useful?

TCJ hears Weinstein’s wife calling. You have chores, now. Run along.

Of Swine, Hyenas and Generals: The Petraeus Testimony

BY Herschel Smith
16 years ago

Disregarding the title and departing from General Petraeus for a moment, the exchange between the laughing hyena Joe Biden and the respectful and respectable Ryan Crocker is below.

The transcript is as follows:

BIDEN: Mr. Ambassador, is Al Qaeda a greater threat to US interests in Iraq, or in the Afghan-Pakistan border region?

CROCKER: Mr. Chairman, al Qaeda is a strategic threat to the United States wherever it is–

BIDEN: Where is most of it? If you could take it out, you had a choice, the Lord Almighty came down and sat in the middle of the table there, and said, ‘Mr. Ambassador, you can eliminate every al Qaeda source in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or every al Qaeda personnel in Iraq, which would you pick?’

CROCKER: Well, given the progress that has been made against al Qaeda in Iraq, the significant decrease in its capabilities, the fact that it is solidly on the defensive and not in a position as far–

BIDEN: Which would you pick?

CROCKER: I would therefore pick Al Qaeda in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.

Actually, there was further testimony that didn’t make the news due to being behind closed doors.  The Senate panel cross examined The Captain’s Journal, with the laughing hyena Joe Biden leading off.  TCJ has been given exclusive access to the transcript which follows:

Laughing Hyena Joe Biden: Hiss … laugh, yelp, growl … suppose that you were required either to listen to me for an hour or take a beating with a baseball bat for an hour.  Which one would you choose?

TCJ: Well, sir, I would rather beat you with a baseball bat for an hour, and …

Hyena: SILENCE SWINE!  You don’t have that option.  You answer my question, now, swine!  Would you rather listen to me or take a beating?  ANSWER, SWINE?  Hiss … laugh … growl … yelp … laugh.

TCJ: Well, it’s really hard to say.  I really don’t want to listen to a hyena for an hour, but a beating with a baseball bat sounds bad …

Hyena: Hiss … laugh … suppose that God came down into your midst and commanded you to make a choice between me or a baseball bat.  Choose, SWINE!

TCJ: Well, hyena, since God didn’t give me the choice of being the vessel which exacts his vengeance upon you, I choose the baseball bat, hyena.

Hyena: Laugh … hiss … growl … hiss … laugh, laugh … I thought so, swine.

This either/or rather than the both/and approach is ridiculous and pertains only to the degree to which the nation chooses to engage in and fund the global war on terror.  Nothing more.  The hyena is purveying a false dilemma.

Returning to the Petraeus testimony, Abu Muqawama has some interesting comments.  First, Abu takes issue with Tom Ricks of the Washington Post for calling them the “rogue cousin” of the Small Wars Journal.  It was fun and interesting to watch Abu react by challenging Ricks to a slap down mixed martial arts cage match – or something like that.  We’ll wait to see that one – it should be interesting.  Next, we’ll reproduce some of the interesting comments below.

While we’re on the subject of Lebanonization, though, here’s another historical analogy that Amb. Crocker missed. In Lebanon, in September 1983, the U.S. lent direct support to what it assumed was a national institution, the Lebanese Army, in the battle at Souk el-Gharb. By doing so, it became, in the eyes of the rest of the Lebanese population, just another militia and thus fair game. What happened next? Ask any U.S. Marine.

Now we all know the situations in Iraq and Lebanon are not exactly the same, but Souk el-Gharb was running through Abu Muqawama’s head during the battle of Basra two weeks ago when we were lending our support to the “national” army of Iraq in its fight with the Sadr crew. To us good-natured Americans, it may have looked as if we were lending our support to the legitimate, national institutions of Iraq. But to other Iraqis, it probably looked as if we were taking sides in the intra-Shia political dispute between ISCI and Sadr in the run-up to this fall’s provincial elections.

At least the senators yesterday didn’t let Crocker and Petraeus get away with talking about the “Iran-supported Sadr Militia.” Yes, Ambassador, Iran does support Sadr and his militia. But they also support our allies. What a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

Well, at TCJ we believe that the gentleman Petraeus could have gone much further than he did concerning Iran’s involvement in the affairs of Iraq – and truthfully so.  He was moderate and measured, as always.  However, Abu makes a good point concerning the ISCI (otherwise SIIC) and the fact that they got out unscathed.  In Basra and Iran, we observed:

In order to cut ties with Iran, the SIIC “members” of the Iraqi Security Forces – who had to fight only rival miltias in Basra this time around – should be forced to rid Iraq of all Iranian influence, including Quds, Hezbollah, IRG and any other proxy Iranian fighters.  Failure to do so, from leadership down to the lowest ranking soldier, should be addressed as treason.  Until the SIIC is forced to fight for Iraq as opposed to fighting against rival gangs, they too are merely Iranian proxy forces.

So as far as Iranian-supported militia, we propose taking them all out, or coopting them absolutely and completely, no negotiations.  As for the hyena Biden, we should send him over to throw-down with the IRG and Sadrists.

Petraeus Advisor Colonel Derek Harvey

BY Herschel Smith
16 years ago

St. Louis Today ( has an interesting article on (outside military circles) a little known advisor to General David Petraeus, retired Army Colonel Derek Harvey.  Portions of it are reproduced below.

As Gen. David Petraeus prepares his critical testimony to Congress this week, one key figure advising him is a retired Army colonel from O’Fallon, Ill., whose Iraq advice the administration once ignored.

Derek Harvey has operated beneath the public radar for the entire Iraq war yet is regarded by many as the single most-informed American on military developments in Iraq. For the past 15 months, as Petraeus’ senior civilian adviser, Harvey has been a prime advocate — and architect — of the troop surge and altered policies credited with reducing violence in Iraq.

Harvey says he hopes Petraeus’ testimony will give Congress — and the public — a picture of Iraq’s improving conditions, including grass-roots citizen participation, despite recent violence in the south.

“What you have is local, town and county governing capacity being reborn, a sense of getting back to normal,” Harvey says.

Harvey sees significant advances, even if some are hard to put into numerical terms.

“There has been widespread, and real, progress, in Sunni Arab towns that have rejected al-Qaida, and in accommodation and reconciliation between Shia and Sunnis in Baghdad and in mixed areas of the country,” Harvey says.

“One can debate the wisdom of the war and its origins, but that is not the point for me and many who have been involved. It’s about the future, how do we make it an acceptable outcome?”

As an editorial note, I would like to echo this sentiment.  Discussions about the origin of the campaign should have been relegated to the first several months after the invasion.  The balance of our efforts should be focused on winning the campaign in order for our efforts to be fruitful.  Colonel Harvey’s position is mature and rises above political rancor.  Continuing, the article goes into unheeded warnings about a rising Sunni insurgency.

Early on, he privately told President George W. Bush and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that a strong Sunni insurgency was probable, that U.S. leaders didn’t understand their adversary and that American forces needed to provide better security for Iraqi civilians as part of a counterinsurgency strategy.

By several accounts, a startled Bush asked Harvey how he could know that the Sunnis were planning a “popular insurrection,” when dozens of more-senior officials had given assurances that no such thing would happen. Harvey, who speaks Arabic, responded that he had spent time with sheiks, tribal leaders and Sunni people listening to their anger and plans to retake power after what they saw as Saddam’s mismanagement of the war, while advisers painting a rosy picture hadn’t done that.

“Harvey is hands down the very best intelligence analyst that the United States government has on Iraq,” says former Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Jack Keane. “He has been right from late ’03 all the way … up to the present.

“Not everybody has listened to Harvey, but Gen. Petraeus has, and so he’s making a difference,” says Keane, who retired but is now a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, an advisory panel …

Al-Qaida, which once loomed as a winner in Iraq, has been severely weakened, Harvey says, and what looked like an inevitable war between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq has yielded to growing reconciliation.

The article concludes with Harvey being seen as someone who understands the complexity and nuance of the Iraq campaign, but also a sad note about the continuing lack of ability to promote the right people.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says he has requested several briefings from Harvey because of his “unusually thoughtful insights into Iraq. He is somebody who works very, very hard to untangle all the nuances, and is always in my view prepared to step back and examine the assumptions, a critical feature for an analyst.”

Harvey has done doctoral-level Middle East studies, and while serving at U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base before 9/11, he worked on the threat posed to the United States by Afghanistan, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

Harvey was denied promotion to the rank of a one- or two-star general, leading to his retirement, which former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, calls “a travesty” and “a sign of the continuing failure of the Army to adopt priorities that fit the modern world.”

Gingrich says both Gen. John Abizaid and Gen. George Casey, when they led U.S. forces in Iraq, told him that Harvey “was the most knowledgeable person on Iraq that we had.”

“He retired as a colonel … and yet he goes back again and again to Iraq to continue to determine plans for victory,” Gingrich said, calling Harvey’s efforts “simply stunning.”

Harvey credits Petraeus’ leadership, which he says is “why people like me have been willing to sacrifice.”

This ability to “untangle all the nuances” led Harvey to advocate a hard position on al Qaeda and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006.

Some senior intelligence officers believe Zarqawi’s role may have been overemphasized by the propaganda campaign, which has included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, Internet postings and at least one leak to an American journalist. Although Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents in Iraq have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain “a very small part of the actual numbers,” Col. Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and then was one of the top officers handling Iraq intelligence issues on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an Army meeting at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., last summer.

In a transcript of the meeting, Harvey said, “Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will — made him more important than he really is, in some ways.”

“The long-term threat is not Zarqawi or religious extremists, but these former regime types and their friends,” said Harvey.

Al Qaeda and foreign insurgents have certainly been part of the Iraq campaign.  In Why are we succeeding in Iraq – or are we? we noted feedback from debriefing of Marines The Captain’s Journal performed after Operation Alljah.  “We killed Chechens, Africans, and men with slanted eyes – we don’t know where they were from.  But we didn’t kill a single Iraqi.”

But the final campaign for Fallujah – one might call it the third battle for Fallujah, conducted by the 2/6 Marines – was unique and involved unique preparation of the Marines who were sent in to secure Fallujah from al Qaeda in 2007.  The campaign for Anbar has involved a large part indigenous Sunni fighters, a position we advocated in Al Qaeda, Indigenous Sunnis and the Insurgency in Iraq.

The campaign for Iraq is much too complex and nuanced to be wrapped up by catch-phrases and sound bites.  Colonel Harvey understands this, and we are glad to have him advising General Petraeus.

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