David McKiernan was dumped as top American commander in Afghanistan yesterday, after less than a year, because his approach was too “conventional,” Pentagon officials tell the New York Times. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said “fresh eyes were needed” and “a new approach was probably in our best interest.” McKiernan’s replacement ran commando operations in Iraq and is trained in “unconventional warfare” focused on keeping the population safe.
The Afghanistan mission “requires new thinking and new approaches by our military leaders,” Gates said. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal headed operations to capture Saddam Hussein and kill the head of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He plans to choose about 400 officers and troops who would spend several years moving between deployments in Afghanistan and assignments back in the US focused on Afghan strategy and training, in an effort to “develop a group of people who give you continuity, expertise, and relationships,” said an official.