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Obama's Afghan Team Under Scrutiny


The one thing left unsaid during all the McChrystal discussion so far is whether the team leading the U.S. effort -- McChrystal, Richard Holbrooke, Karl Eikenberry, Hillary Clinton and Jim Jones -- is still functioning well or whether McChrystal and others on the team need changing.

These people were deliberately built as a "team of rivals," guaranteeing a healthy diversity of opinion, says retired Army general Jim Dubik who led the crucial effort training Iraqi security forces during the surge. That friction is helpful as long as the team functions well enough to achieve unity of purpose and coherency in action. If they are headed in different directions then some of them may need replacing. Only President Obama can make that decision, and it is a decision that Dubik, now at the Institute for the Study of War, thinks stands apart from whether McChrystal resigns or not since his replacement will still pursue the strategy Obama outlined in his West Point speech.

Dubik offered no names, but the most obvious person to replace in this group would be Ambassador Eikenberry, who has questioned the administration's approach from the start and pointedly argued against a surge in cables to the State Department. Should McChrystal's resignation be accepted, or the president fire him, it may well lead to other changes. However, Obama must move with great care to avoid a loss of confidence among our NATO, Afghan and Pakistani allies.

The short list for McChrystal replacements purportedly includes: Marine Gen. James Mattis outgoing head of Joint Forces Command; Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command who is also deputy commander of US Forces Afghanistan; some media outlets are including Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, head the Army's Training and Doctrine Command; and one logical choice might be Adm. James Stavridis, commander of US forces in Europe and our top uniformed man at NATO.

Mattis was just passed over as Gates' pick for Marine Commandant. Regarding Dempsey, TRADOC is traditionally a retirement post. Stavridis has little battlefield or COIN experience, though he has a good handle on NATO issues and possesses one of the sharpest minds in the military.

McChrystal met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates earlier this morning at the Pentagon and has just left the White House after roughly a 30-minute meeeting.

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