Insider Quote: How size and speed disparity works in Afghanistan….

AgFair tasting Tomato Paste May 20, 09Image by USAID Afghanistan via Flickr

Before the McChrystal flap unfolded, the U.S. Ambassador to Kabul, Karl W. Eikenberry gave a speech at the Command and General Staff College Graduation Ceremony in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on June 11. Below is an excerpt:

Like our soldiers, our diplomats are focused first on preventing wars, but when we must, we fight the same war as you do, but we use different tools, and fight on a different scale.

As for size, you’ve probably heard Secretary Gates’ comment that the military has more uniformed band members than the State Department has Foreign Service Officers.  The entire Department of State numbers under 40,000.  The number of Foreign Service Officers – our line personnel, if you will – is only 8,000.   With those 8,000, State staffs not only our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, but hundreds of embassies and consulates around the world.

Here’s an illustration of how that size and speed disparity works in Afghanistan.  When ISAF wants to work on developing an approach to a complicated policy or operational issue – to take a real world example, finding a way to ban the ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer used in the vast majority of IEDs in Afghanistan – ISAF can easily mobilize 50 staff officers to form an Operational Planning Team.

I am fortunate to be Ambassador at the only U.S. Embassy in the world with a full-time staff of State Department planners.  I have, on a good day, five of them – plus an Army SAMS planner, a graduate of this fine institution whom General McChrystal assigned to me in one more instance of close civ-mil cooperation.  I could afford to deploy one or two Embassy planners to that counter-IED OPT. 

Read the whole thing here.

Related Link:

Blog | Michael Hastings at Rolling Stone

President Obama Accepts General McChrystal’s Resignation

General David Petraeus nominated as new commander of US forces in Afghanistan

CNN reported that President Hamid Karzai has vocally expressed his support for General McChrystal and called him the “best” commander for the war in Afghanistan.  But, the Afghans apparently are puzzled about the McChrystal controversy and are asking what’s the fuss about.

Chain of command and respect for civilian authority may be hard to understand in a country that seems to be in perpetual war.

Below is President Obama’s Statement on General McChrystal and Afghanistan.  The transcript is here.

“[W]ar is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president.”
“The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”
“It is also true that our democracy depends upon institutions that are stronger than individuals. That includes strict adherence to the military chain of command, and respect for civilian control over that chain of command. And that’s why, as Commander-in-Chief, I believe this decision is necessary to hold ourselves accountable to standards that are at the core of our democracy.”