Much has been said in the past week about Admiral Michael Mullen’s talk of a “new, more comprehensive” strategy in Afghanistan before the House Armed Services Committee, and while the focus of this strategy has been the US escalation in Pakistan, The Independent has revealed another less visible aspect, with ramifications for the chain of command in Afghanistan.
The war has long been under NATO oversight, and is one of the largest operations ever attempted by the alliance. But as the war drags on, some US commanders have complained that the international coordination of the operation has made fighting a large scale nearly decade-long war against insurgents in mountainous terrain quite inconvenient. The Bush Administration’s answer to this is to attempt to seize control over the entire operation and placing the commander in Afghanistan General David McKiernan directly under the control of CENTCOM, now run by General Petraeus, effectively cutting NATO out of the command structure.
The decision would likely be regarded quite negatively in NATO nations heavily involved in the war, where the long and increasingly bloody battle is already becoming unpopular among the public. NATO has also been playing the role of peacemaker between US forces and an Afghan government angered by the increasing number of US-inflicted civilian deaths, making a move to increase America’s control over the war at the expense of NATO likely a tough sell in Afghanistan.