U.S. Replaces Top General In Afghanistan
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
There's been a big change in military leadership. The White House has signed off on the Pentagon's plan to replace its top general in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the decision earlier today.
Secretary ROBERT GATES (Department of Defense): We have a new strategy, a new mission, and a new ambassador. I believe that new military leadership also is needed.
NORRIS: Secretary Gates has asked General David McKiernan to resign his command and he has recommended a new man for the job, a Green Beret whose special operations troops were credited with capturing Saddam Hussein. He is Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has our story.
TOM BOWMAN: General McKiernan has only been on the job in Afghanistan for 11 months. But for weeks there has been talk at the Pentagon that McKiernan would be removed. He was called too conventional. McKiernan commanded the massive ground assault into Iraq in 2003, but he was widely seen as not well versed in fighting counter-insurgencies like Afghanistan, clearing an area of insurgents that are rebuilding. Gates side-stepped the reason for McKiernan's dismissal today. Clearly McChrystal's experience in counter-insurgency warfare was a key reason he got the job. Here's Admiral Mike Mullen, the Pentagon's top officer.
Admiral MIKE MULLEN (Pentagon): Certainly his focus and his background I think are very relevant to our needs there.
BOWMAN: General McChrystal has been deeply involved in the new Afghanistan strategy of the Pentagon. Those who know him say McChrystal has more experience than McKiernan in Afghanistan. He spent five years shuttling between Afghanistan and Iraq as commander of a counterterrorism force, the joint special operations command. Green Berets like McChrystal are adept at targeted raids, working with local forces and local leaders. McKiernan is being replaced just as he got what he wanted - 21,000 more American troops. He told reporters in February that winning wouldn't be easy.
General DAVID MCKIERNAN: Even with these additional forces, I have to tell you that 2009 is going to be a tough year.
BOWMAN: General McKiernan won't be finding the fight much longer. He'll stay until the Senate confirms his successor.
Tom Bowman, NPR News, the Pentagon.