Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Is the commander of ISAF overstepping his authority?

This is interesting. The commander of the NATO International Security and Assistance Force in Afghanistan, US General Dan McNeill, appears to have been freelancing his forces without informing, well... headquarters. (Emphasis mine)
The German government and the North Atlantic Council in Brussels are unhappy with US General Dan McNeill, who took over as commander of the 36,000-strong NATO-led force in Afghanistan in early February.

McNeill launched last week's "Operation Achilles" offensive against Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan without informing NATO headquarters in Brussels and the allied NATO powers.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and several ambassadors complained that McNeill had surged ahead on his own authority. They criticized him for declaring that the operation, which was originally planned just to protect a water dam, was a "spring offensive."

Government officials in Berlin were particularly irritated by reports that the US general is skeptical about coordinated civilian and military reconstruction efforts, an approach that Germany and many other partners support.

NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, US General John Craddock, has expressed regret about McNeill's behavior, say sources in Brussels.

It would be more than a little interesting to know what Canada's ambassador to the North Atlantic Council had to say in regards to this. Juneau is a career diplomat with a long resume of diplomatic posts and ambassadorships. One can't imagine he would take too kindly to discovering that the defence of the Kajaki Dam, a reconstruction project, turned into a "spring offensive".

McNeill has a lot of experience in Afghanistan and his popularity among the Afghan leaders is questionable, to say the least. He was the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan when air assaults killed significant numbers of civilians in Oruzgan Province in July 2002. Despite a promise to change the way American forces conducted themselves, McNeill's reliance on the intelligence provided by Afghan warlords and his policy of ordering air assaults without coordinating with Afghan leaders brought sharp criticism of his callous approach to the protection of civilians. It would be fair to suggest that the Afghan leadership doesn't like him very much.

There is every likelihood that had McNeill informed Brussels of the need for an offensive, he would have been given the nod to go ahead. But to simply plan and execute a major operation without properly informing his NATO superiors is exceeding his authority.

When your boss has to "express regrets" for your behaviour, you aren't the right person for the job.

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