US commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal is getting a dramatic increase in his authority today, as CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus announced he was giving McChrystal full operational control over “all US forces, less a handful.”
Gen. Petraeus did not say which troops this “handful” were, but previously he had retained complete control over all Special Operations forces and all the prison guards in Afghanistan.
McChrystal’s total lack of authority over Special Operations forces came under renewed scrutiny last month after the forces called in an air strike against civilian buses, killing 27 civilians and wounded a dozen others. McChrystal, who has been making a big deal of limiting civilian deaths in air strikes, had to apologize for the killings, but had no authority over the forces responsible for them. Petraeus would only say that the move would give McChrystal powers “I wish I had” when he was commander in Iraq.
NATO is also planning to set up another new US-led military command in southern Afghanistan, part of the upcoming offensive against Kandahar City. Officials say conquering the city will be the centerpiece of NATO’s strategy for 2010.