The big news story today is the firing of General Stanley McChrystal over comments made by himself and aides in a recent Rolling Stone article. Now yes, it is a big deal that a 4-star general and his staff made insubordinate remarks to a reporter. The timing however, is very questionable.
Let's look at a short timeline of events from this week...
Monday June 21st, 2010 @ 10:30PM EST:
The US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform releases a damning report titled "Warlord, Inc." The report details how billions of US taxpayer dollars have been flowing to Afghan warlords (and likely the Taliban as well) through a mafia-like protection scheme involving the shipping and distributing of supplies throughout Afghanistan. It is called the "Host Nation Trucking" contract - or HNT - and it is currently worth $2.16 billion dollars and is responsible for approximately 70% of all U.S. supplies in Afghanistan.
Tuesday June 22nd, 2010 @ 10:00AM EST:
Rolling Stone publishes online it's article "The Runaway General" which details - among other things - the fractious mood between military leadership in Afghanistan with Obama administration types like US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and National Security Advisor Jim Jones. The article is largely a condemnation of counter-insurgency strategy and it's proponents. It also details comments made by General McChrystal and his aides that are insubordinate, which under the UCMJ allows the President to fire McChrystal.
Wednesday June 23, 2010:
General McChrystal resigns and his successor is named as General David Petraeus, a man with much more congenial ties to the Obama administration.
I'm no conspiracy theorist, so why go through all this?
Well it's because this media circus over General McChrystal's firing pretty well obfuscates what should be a HUGE story. It should be a huge story because, as the report states:
“The Department of Defense is grossly out of compliance with applicable regulations and has no visibility into the operations of the private security companies that are subcontractors on the HNT contract.”
And that “fueling unaccountable warlords and funding parallel power structures... the United States undercuts efforts to establish popular confidence in a credible and sustainable Afghan government.”
Now, consider this excerpt from a recent article by The Victory Institute:
"In this frame, the true back story of the Afghan strategy deliberations in the Obama war room this afternoon has little to do with General McChrystal and everything to do with the fact that the Department of Defense has dropped the ball in its support of the effort to legitimize the Karzai government by knowingly outsourcing the U.S. military and civilian supply chains to a protection racket that fuels the insurgency.
Moreover, the Department of Defense could have rectified the failed policy by re-tooling the effort following the announcement of the AfPak strategy in March, following the Triage assessment of General McChrystal upon assuming command last summer, following the 10 war council sessions that led to the December 1, 2009 announcement of a second troop surge, or at any time during the last six months following President Obama’s recommitment to the Afghan theatre with an additional 30,000 troops.
The U.S. Department of Defense had four major opportunities to step up and seal the breach in the failed elements of the supply chain; but, it chose, instead, to continue down the path of a failed policy – a policy, which has crippled all political shaping efforts in Kandahar, and has literally created an environment in which upwards of 70,000 armed Afghan civilians are operating with differing levels of oversight and regulation throughout Afghanistan.
The blood of all coalition soldiers and civilians, the blood of all Afghan and foreign contractors, who have died along the supply routes in southern Afghanistan since the signing of the HNT contract, falls to the hands of the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
So... a hatchet-job article by Rolling Stone (detailing the comments of a well-known outspoken general) comes out the day after a the release of a report by the House Oversight committee (detailing monumental logistical screw-ups that undercut pretty much our entire strategy in Afghanistan) and dominates the current media cycle.