Major General Peter Fuller was relieved of command last week as Deputy Commanding General for the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. This decision comes from Marine General John R. Allen, overall commander in Afghanistan after comments made by Fuller in a politico.com interview (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/67523.html) . In
particular Fuller made disparaging remarks about Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Fuller’s comments were in response to what he calls an “erratic” statement made by Karzai last week, stating that Afghanistan would ally with neighbor Pakistan should a conflict arise between the US and Pakistan.
“These unfortunate comments are neither indicative of our current solid relationship with the government of Afghanistan, its leadership, or our joint commitment to prevail here in Afghanistan,” said Marine Gen. John R. Allen.
Fuller’s comments and reaction seemed to be in line with the majority of soldiers in Afghanistan and Americans stateside. Fuller had been candid and upfront when asked questions regarding the situation in Afghanistan. Fuller referenced Afghanistan’s request for F-16 fighter jets, when they neither have the budget to use or maintain them.
Would the Defense Department reaction have been different if Fuller’s comments were made in front of the House or Senate Armed Services Committees? Will this affect future media encounters by military leadership? How are we to get accurate information about the situation in Afghanistan when military leaders gets fired for speaking what they believe is an honest assessment?
I think that both sides Fuller and Karzai had strong comments. Karzai said his quote was taken out of context. Fuller stood by his comments. This reminds me of when Admiral Mike Mullen spoke out about Pakistan just before his retirement. It seems when military
leadership makes statements critical of allies or, they should be expecting their job to be on the line. If military leadership isn’t allowed to be critical and open about the current situation to the media, we will all be led to believe that the Afghanistan campaign is
going according to plan, under budget and that the troop withdrawal is on schedule. Afghan forces will fill the security vacuum, the government is ready and the Afghan people will be forever grateful.