U.S. military punishes more officers for failures
The U.S. military has reprimanded an unusually large number of commanders for battlefield failures in Afghanistan in recent weeks, reflecting a new push by the top brass to hold commanders responsible for major incidents in which troops are killed or wounded, said senior military officials.
The military does not release figures on disciplinary actions taken against field commanders. But officials familiar with recent investigations said letters of reprimand or other disciplinary action have been recommended for officers involved in three ambushes in which U.S. troops battled Taliban forces in remote villages in 2008 and 2009. Such administrative actions can scuttle chances for promotion and end a career if they are made part of an officer's permanent personnel file.
The investigations are a departure for the U.S. military, which until recently has been reluctant to second-guess commanders whose decisions might have played a role in the deaths of soldiers in enemy action. Disciplinary action has been more common in cases in which U.S. troops have injured or killed civilians.
In response to the recent reprimands, some military officials have argued that casualties are inevitable in war and that a culture of excessive investigations could make officers risk-averse.
"This is a war where the other side is trying, too," said one Army officer who commanded troops in Afghanistan and requested anonymity in order to speak freely.
As many as five battlefield commanders have received letters of reprimand in the past month or have been the subject of an investigation by a general who recommended disciplinary action. A sixth commander received a less-severe formal letter of admonishment. None of the investigations or letters of reprimand has been released publicly.
The reprimands come amid growing political pressure from lawmakers who have pushed the military to assign greater accountability for incidents in which large numbers of U.S. troops are killed or wounded. The Pentagon's top leaders Adm. Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates also have been quicker to dismiss senior officers, fostering a change in the overall culture.
In 2009 they relieved the top commander in Afghanistan for his stewardship of the war. "The issue of holding people accountable is something Admiral Mullen watches very, very carefully," said a senior military official.
Posted by: Anonymoose 2010-02-05