on the controversy
around General Caldwell has generated some interesting feedback. Now we've received a copy of a letter from Caldwell supporters, including some of his former staffers.
It's an interesting text. It scores an important point on substance by arguing that Caldwell didn't have a "psychological or information operations unit" assigned to his command. It's also worth noting that the signers explicitly welcome the investigation initiated by General Petraeus, which suggests a considerable degree of confidence.
The White House, it should be said, has been notably silent on this story, apparently preferring to wait out the results of the Pentagon investigation. In short, the political context this time around seems rather different from the circumstances that turned the McChrystal scandal into such a huge political brouhaha. Back then the generals were widely perceived as bucking White House plans for the war in Afghanistan, and that left Obama little choice but to reassert his leadership by sending McChrystal packing. The same logic doesn't seem to apply in this case (so far, at least).
Now let's see if we can persuade Mike Hastings, the "Rolling Stone" reporter, to provide us with a response. ("Outpost" welcomes feedback of any kind, of course.)
But first, a clarification: "Outpost" is not interested in influencing inside-the-Beltway policy discussions. We're in the news business, and this letter is clearly newsworthy. What's more, it has immediate relevance to the part of the world that we prefer to focus on. We're pursuing this complicated tale because it has a direct impact on America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, two of the places that loom rather large in our reporting brief. We'd like the people there – as well as our worthy website readers in English and our other languages – to understand what's going on behind the headlines.
Enough said. The text of the letter follows below:
Letter in Support of Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV
The recent article in Rolling Stone about the conduct of LTG William Caldwell is totally contrary to our experience with him, and his conduct as an officer and leader.
We have jointly dealt with, spoken with and listened to LTG Caldwell more than a hundred times and collectively spent thousands of hours working together. We have seen him interact with the leaders of our nation, its military, the media and the public at large. He is, and has always been, honest and professional.
He has been beyond reproach, humble to a fault, unfailingly supportive of civilian leadership and the military chain of command, and a skeptic of anyone who suggests an officer in the United States is anything less. The accusations of a disgruntled officer do not reflect the person or leader we know and are totally disconnected with the reality we have experienced.
The accusations, as reported in this article, misrepresent the operational and command environment in Afghanistan. First, LTG Caldwell's command does not have a psychological or information operations unit assigned within its structure, because it does not have the authority or the need to have such an entity.
If LTC Michael Holmes had a concern about illegal behavior, why didn't he exercise his obligation to confront LTG Caldwell directly? It is not just the right of any officer in the United States Army to refuse an illegal order, it is his obligation.
Additionally, the suggestion that any effort was designed to win a "fourth" star for LTG Caldwell rings hollow from its core. LTG Caldwell is not a star shopper, nor a reward seeker. He has led men in combat and peace, and every time those around and above him have recognized his natural command and leadership abilities. The man we know would never endorse or condone any such efforts to promote himself above anyone else. He wouldn't need to.
By all means the Army should investigate these charges, and should misconduct be found, punish people accordingly.
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) recently said he did not need convincing that we must increase the size and capabilities of the Afghan Security Forces: "I have never needed any convincing on this point. Quite the opposite, my efforts have been aimed at convincing others of the need for larger, more capable Afghan security forces."
We have all seen or been presenters to Senator Levin and his colleagues. They are not rubber stamps, and certainly not pushovers of our military's policies. Senator Levin is a steadfast advocate for doing what he believes is right. Trying to influence Senator Levin's perceptions would backfire miserably.
The truly unfortunate aspect of this episode of is that an exceptional military leader and person has become ensnared in an unfortunate drama.
Our military and our nation must focus on succeeding in Afghanistan. Our nation and military needs more William Caldwells
Glenn Ayers, COL, USA Retired
Claude Chafin, former Director of the White House Iraq Fusion Cell
James Davis, former Special Assistant, OSD Public Affairs
Erin Healy, former Director of Communications Outreach, Office of Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs
Pete Hegseth, Chairman of Vets for Freedom, CPT, USA
Robert Holmes, BG, USA Retired
Tom Jones, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, CAPT, USN Retired
Mark Pfeifle, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications
John C. Roberts, Foreign Service Officer, Acting Public Affairs Officer Baghdad, 2005 - 2007
Dorrance Smith, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
Howard Snow, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, LtCol, USMC Retired
Dan Stanley, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs
Jonathan Thompson, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
Damon Wilson, former Executive Secretary and Chief of Staff, U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq