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Jeremy White Headshot

Obama Lacks a Suitable Replacement for McChrystal

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Originally Published at Demagogues and Dictators

In my opinion General McChrystal will survive this ordeal not because he is the best man for the job but because he is the only man for the job. Discussion around the campfire here in Afghanistan has centered around who would be a suitable replacement for McChrystal and the only name that really holds any water is Lt. General David Rodriguez who came to Afghanistan at the same time as McChrystal to run the ISAF Joint Command (ICJ). The IJC is the operational arm of the coalition here, devoted to running the day to day operations of the war. While General Rodriguez could assume control of ISAF without a large learning curve, this would cause and even larger problem by leaving the positional of operational commander vacant at the height of the deadliest fighting season seen in the past 9 years of the war.

The other four names being floated in the press as possible replacements are all decorated soldiers but not one of them has the background or institutional knowledge required to assume command of a war as complicated as this one.

General James Mattis:
General Mattis is currently Commander of Joint Forces Command. Talk about someone with a past for making outrageous comments to the press. General Mattis is also a marine which will likely disqualify him from the top spot in Afghanistan. The Marine Corps has been the slowest to adopt Counterinsurgency practices, instead preferring to rely on the same battle tested tactics that brought them victory in Fallujah.

LT. General Allen:
As deputy commander of Centcom, General Allen would have a decent understanding of ongoing operations in Afghanistan but there would still be a significant learning curve involved if he were to assume command in Afghanistan. Furthermore, he is a marine and as I mentioned earlier the marine's do not have the best reputation when it comes to counterinsurgency practices.

General Martin Dempsey:
General Dempsey has Iraq experience but Iraq is not Afghanistan. Yes it is true that General McChrystal came to Afghanistan after fighting in Iraq for several years, however, as a Special Forces Commander he had the advantage of being well versed in COIN principles whereas General Dempsey is not.

Navy Adm. James Stavridis:
Is an intelligent man and has proven himself as a skilled commander of both SOUTHCOM and as Supreme Allied Commander-Europe (SACEUR). However, he has very little experience with the conflict in Afghanistan and has had zero experience implementing COIN in the field. Furthermore, the Army represents the vast majority of the troops currently fighting on the ground here in Afghanistan and as a result any successor to McChrystal would have to come from the ground forces, most likely the Army.