General David McKiernan, top American commander in Afghanistan, will be replaced by former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
According to the New York Times, Department of Defense officials said McKiernan had been removed primarily because “he had brought too conventional an approach to the challenge.”
Does a change at the top signal a shift in tactics? I would hope, but probably not.
In the past couple weeks U.S. air strikes have killed scores of innocent civilians. In response, White House National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones said the air strikes would continue.
By the day I’m growing more pessimistic about our ability to effect a better outcome in Afghanistan than what would exist in absence of our efforts. Every measure is taken to limit civilian casualties. But the accidental killing of civilians by U.S. air patrols fuels resentment against the presence of the U.S.-led coalition. The problem I see is simple: the collateral damage unleashed from air strikes make the Taliban appear to be a force against injustice and consequently undermine the very security Western forces are attempting to provide. Ergo, why remain?
In the “more of the same” war in Afghanistan, according to the LA Times, “The Pentagon also is considering a radical shift in deployment cycles, assigning key leaders and planners to Afghanistan for as long as five years.” (emphasis mine)
As my good friend and fellow libertarian Anthony Gregory says about Barack Obama versus George W. Bush: “Same big stick, just more soft-spoken.”