Thursday, October 14, 2010
Colonel Harry D. Tunnell, IV, did not and does not believe in the efficacy of population-centric counterinsurgency, reports the Washington Post. Whether intentional or not, this article suggests that it's possible that Tunnell's views on how to wage the war in Afghanistan led to the actions of the now-infamous "kill team." Bullocks. Spencer addressed this "looming question" this morning over at Danger Room. Ackerman states, "If the "Kill Team" is found guilty, it'll likely spark a painful debate within the Army about the relationship between his anti-counterinsurgency approach and some of his men's crimes." I surely hope such a debate isn't sparked because it is not a real debate and shouldn't be had. There are lots of commanders who despise pop-COIN that didn't have murderers in their units. And there is a huge difference between wanting to kill Taliban by the truck load and killing civilians for fun. Huge difference. Tunnell seems like an old school commander in many ways who would never condone such activities in his unit. I have no idea what lead to the activities of the "Kill Team", but it seems to me to be the ring leader and poor leadership at the platoon and company. But I don't know. I think Whitlock's suggestions that because Tunnell didn't believe in COIN, his soldiers then went out to kill civilians is irresponsible. There is no merit to this argument - especially given that Gibbs apparently did similar things in Iraq when he didn't work for Tunnell.
There's also another aspect to this story outside of the murders - Tunnell's non-adherence to the COIN strategy of the time. At Commentary, Max Boot says that the Army "clearly has to do a better job of making sure that all those in such important combat commands have a better understanding of counterinsurgency doctrine." I take issue with this as well; that's not what the Army needs to do at all. What the Army needs to do is fire commanders who don't adhere to their commander's guidance. This isn't about COIN (like Whitlock and Boot suggest) - this is about unity of effort and unity of command. From the perspective of ISAF, who cares what Tunnell thinks about COIN? If he's ordered to do it he has to do it. His not executing COIN, per his orders, is a failure of ISAF and RC-South commands in not controlling their subordinate units. I find this appalling. Just as I would if ISAF ordered him to do enemy-centric operations and Tunnell decided he was going to do pop-COIN. Tunnell's failure to adhere to his superiors' guidance is an abrogation of his duties as a commander.
Whitlock's article is interesting. But let's all put this story in perspective - a failure to do COIN doesn't create murderers and ISAF doesn't have the cojones to enforce it's own policies. Those are the take-aways.