May 13th, 2009
04:08 PM ET
5 years ago

Gates: McKiernan not replaced over troop requests

Gen. David McKiernan is being replaced as commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Gen. David McKiernan is being replaced as commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates insisted Wednesday that the recent ousting of Gen. David McKiernan as the top allied commander in Afghanistan was not made because of his general's requests for more troops or the rise in casualties.

Gates was asked about the decision to replace McKiernan with Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan at a House Armed Service Committee hearing. It was the first time a general of that ranking had been replaced during a war since President Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War.

The question, by Rep. Joseph Sestak, D-Pennsylvania, was whether it was fair to fire McKiernan since he wasn't given the resources he wanted, as the Iraq war was considered the top priority until just recently.

"This was an individual who by policy was given second choice on resources and never enough despite repeated requests," Sestak said.

McKiernan had asked for thousands of additional troops for the war in Afghanistan. Gates decided to send an additional 21,000 troops this summer, 10,000 less than McKiernan requested. Those additional troops will be decided on in 2010, Gates said.

Since the announcement of the command change, there have been questions as to whether McKiernan's insistence on even more troops was what did him in.

Gates defended the decision. He noted that troop levels have risen significantly from 32,000 in 2008 to 68,000 troops within the next few months.

"There has been a significant increase in those resources," Gates said.

"My decision to make those recommendations to the president had nothing to do with civilian casualties, had nothing to do with Gen. McKiernan's request for forces."

"I view what has happened to Gen. McKiernan as an accelerated change of command," Gates said. "There was no intent to convey anything negative or denigrate him in any way."

Gates insisted that McKiernan, who has served in the U.S. Army for more than 30 years, was not asked to resign from the service, only from the position as head of the Afghanistan command. But in making the announcement on Monday, Gates responded to a question about whether the removal ended McKiernan's career with a one-word response.

"Probably," he said.


Filed under: Robert Gates • Stanley McChrystal
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Honest Abe

    Obviously, they are putting someone in that will carry out the Obama administrations agenda. What's wrong with that? I read that the new general in charge is better at dealing with this type of warfare than the former general. I'm sure the former general will find another job. oh that's right he's still in the military so he NEVER lost his job.

    May 13, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  2. RobK

    So, effectively he was being asked to retire.

    May 13, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  3. jc

    Yes – he is being "asked" to retire, which means he is being forced to retire.

    The administration can appoint whoever they want. By putting his man in charge, the President has officially become a war-time president and the Afghanistan War is now his war, for good or for bad. He has every right to do what he feels is best. I wouldn't believe the reports about McKiernan not being able to deal with that kind of warfare though.

    I am curious though when people are going to start blasting the Afghanistan War and demanding all the troops get pulled out. How many deaths there will be too much?

    May 13, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  4. Lynn

    If Bush would have fired Rumsfeld when he should have there would have been a lot less deaths and injuries to both American soldiers and Iraqis. Pres. Obama would not have made this choice without a thorough discussion with his military team.

    May 13, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  5. Tina

    The new general is the one that lied about what happened to Pat Tillman.

    May 13, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  6. Neil

    Could it be McKiernan is disillusioned with the Petraeus Doctrine? Could it be McKiernan sees the devastating effect that generational warfare with no hope of real victory has on our troops? Could it be the politicians are taking command in this war, as they have in others, signaling a general lack of respect for the troops in combat? Could it be the generals in charge are more interested in Vengeance than Victory because it suits their political ambitions? Naw. Can't happen here.

    May 13, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  7. Proud DHS radical

    Ohhhh Tina beat me to it!

    May 13, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  8. ran

    Military personnel are reassigned every day, if they had just done that in this case all this distraction would not be happening. I fought Gates and the joint chiefs because they should have known better.

    May 13, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  9. Hammer

    Yea right.

    May 13, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  10. Jim

    I think they are trying to assemble a team there that works together well and maybe General McKiernan didn't fit in. It would bother me to make him feel humiliated as I'm sure he tried as hard as he could with what he had to get where we told him to go. The two biggest problems with our Afghanistan effort is that we don't really understand the people who live there and we wasted a lot of energy on Iraq.

    May 13, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  11. mungie

    It's George Bush's fault.

    May 13, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  12. banderson

    I don't care how the pentagon spins it, they screwed this guy over big time.

    May 13, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  13. DaBird

    Lynn,
    How can you even bring up Bush and Rumsfeld? It is really bad being a sheep. There is a new President. Obama and staff made this decision. Read your comment and please tell me how Bush is even brought up in this article?

    May 13, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  14. Dee, USAF (Ret)

    War is hell!

    May 13, 2009 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |