- Published: Tuesday, 23 October 2012 00:38
22 October 2012
The following email came from Mark Safranski subsequent his reading this letter from Colonel (ret.) Harry Tunnell. The letter.
===Email from Mr. Safranski:===
Interesting, this part in particular:
""A gross lack of concern for subordinates," Tunnell wrote, "manifests itself in guidance that 'zero' civilian casualties are acceptable and coalition soldiers may have to be killed rather than defend themselves against a potential threat and risk being wrong and possibly resulting in injury or death of a civilian."
....Tunnell's memo exhibits particular disdain for British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, commander of NATO forces in Regional Command South, which includes the Arghandab District where Sitton was killed.
It was Carter, Tunnell wrote, whose verbal order led commanders to risk their own troops rather than Afghan civilians – something Sitton complained about two years later in an email to his wife."
Very helpful. I finally get it now.
I was always curious, reading threads [on private listserv] here on Afghanistan, how Colonel Tunnell was able to openly pursue counter-guerrilla operations in Afghanistan when pop-centric COIN was the heavy-handed, top-down and rigidly enforced tactical paradigm; Harry, IMHO, could do this because the *verbal* orders being issued went far beyond FM 3-24 theory into an unauthorized and unofficial but *politically desired* British policing model used in Northern Ireland. A kind of tactical guidance that could not be put in writing and enforced through the UCMJ because the American people would have found that guidance to be politically intolerable and morally outrageous - and rightly so.
Unlike Catholics in Ulster who are subjects of the Crown, Afghans are not American citizens and American soldiers and Marines are not cops in a bad neighborhood. Nor is the Taliban the IRA. Minimizing civilian casualties is a good and worthy goal; valuing political atmospherics over American lives is a sign of gross incompetence, at best.
Hence the anonymous leaks and smears about Harry to politically connected Beltway scribes instead. Tunnell's superiors were afraid to air their real dispute.
Colonel Tunnell expressed strong opinions here on the Loop [a private Listserv] from time to time and I did not always agree with him or how he was characterizing problems under discussion. As a civilian, I'm not qualified to assess his tactical operations in Afghanistan. What I can say is that Colonel Tunnell has displayed far more character and intellectual honesty than his critics and that he his placed value of the lives of his men above political gamesmanship and careerism.
===END email from Mr. Safranski===