McChrystal Takes Charge of Limiting Civilian Deaths: The Wrong Man for the Job?

Saturday, March 20, 2010
Stanley McChrystal

U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal has talked the talk since taking over the military operation in Afghanistan, but can he walk the walk? With thousands of Afghan civilians having died over the years, the U.S. impressed upon McChrystal when he took control of American forces that something had to be done to reduce the casualty rate among non-combatants. McChrystal, the former head of Special Operations Command, promised to do just that. But the results haven’t been much better.

Now, the one-time commando leader is assuming direct control of Special Forces in Afghanistan because civilians are continuing to die in large numbers as a result of U.S.-led assaults. In 2009, nearly 600 Afghans died at the hands of coalition forces, according to the United Nations. The incidents included the killing of eight high school students, a 12-year-old shepherd boy, an Afghan police commander, a government prosecutor, two of their pregnant wives and a teenage daughter. Again, McChrystal has vowed to make limiting civilian casualties “paramount.”
Some critics have questioned whether McChrystal is really the right person for the job. Before arriving in Afghanistan, he oversaw, as head of Special Ops, the secret detention center in Baghdad, Iraq, known as Camp Nama, where insurgents were tortured by American personnel. McChrystal told lawmakers during his confirmation hearings that he does not support the use of harsh interrogation techniques and tried to stop it, but Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) quietly questioned whether the general was telling the truth.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
U.S. Is Reining In Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan (by Richard Oppel Jr. and Rod Norland, New York Times)
New Afghan Commander Oversaw Torture Program (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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