Sworn statement by Green Beret delivers blistering indictment of U.S. Afghanistan command

Special to WorldTribune.com

A U.S. Army Green Beret said a “profound lack of strategy” has plagued the 14-year war effort in Afghanistan.

“The enemy operates with impunity throughout the country due to our relentless commitment to avoid principled strategy and decision-making processes,” the Special Forces soldier says in a sworn statement, according to a report by national security correspondent Rowan Scarborough.

U.S. troops at at Forward Operating Base, Finley Shields in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. /AFP
U.S. troops at at Forward Operating Base, Finley Shields in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. /AFP

The soldier said the Obama administration’s current battle plan calls for most U.S. troops to remain in forward operating bases as less-skilled Afghan troops fight the Taliban alone. “It is not working,” he said.

“There is a fine line between not conducting operations to keep people out of harm’s way and not conducting operations in such a fashion that it actually increases overall risk to force and risk to mission,” the Green Beret said, according to the the Washington Times report.

The soldier “filed his statement in the fall investigation into the mistaken U.S. airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, north of Kabul. A relatively small invasion force of Taliban took control of the city. It was up to this soldier’s Operational Detachment Alpha to organize an Afghan force to infiltrate the city and take back buildings. All names and ranks are redacted in the investigative report.

“A special operations AC-130U “Spooky” gunship opened a 30-minute volley of gun and cannon fire, killing 42 staff and patients. The crew received the order to fire from a Green Beret officer on the ground and his Joint Terminal Attack Controller.

“The Green Beret who filed the critical statement was not that officer but was a member of the Operational Detachment Alpha holed up in a police station while the Afghan force moved on what was supposed to be the real target — a Taliban-held security building.”

The operation on Sept. 29-Oct. 3 led the soldier to accuse commanders of “moral cowardice.”

“When an ODA’s mission runs headlong into national strategy, and the detachment asks for guidance on the level of commitment and receives nothing back over a 96-hour period, that’s an abject failure of leadership,” the Green Beret wrote.

He said those running the command centers of playing it safe to prevent harm to their careers.

“Inaction or indecision does, however, enable convenient political expedience, where one can reap the rewards of success without facing the responsibility and consequence of failure,” the soldier said. “Without commitment to a particular course of action or strategy chosen by a subordinate, a leader can smile for the camera while handing out an award or sidestep the bailiff when the gavel drops on the judge’s bench.”

“It’s not a strategy, and in fact it’s a recipe for disaster in that kinetic of an environment. How have we, as a force, as a group of officers, become so lost from the good lessons that our mentors taught us? I will tell you how. It is a decrepit state that grows out of the expansion of moral cowardice, careerism and compromise devoid of principle, exchanged for cheap personal gain.

“We owe the man on the ground more than that, because for him, the decision that he makes hopefully lands him somewhere between the judge’s gavel and the enemy bullet.”

The U.S. has 9,800 troops in Afghanistan and will keep about 5,000 there next year. Some Republicans want that number increased, saying the Afghan National Security Forces are not ready to go it alone and will succumb to the Taliban, which have launched the spring fighting season.

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