Was a brigade commander an instigator or just asleep at the switch while the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, “kill team” was allegedly murdering civilians?
An Army investigation finds no “causal relationship” between Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV’s aggressive leadership and the killings, but it criticizes Tunnell for neglectfulness that created a climate ripe for misconduct.
The investigation, first reported by Der Spiegel on Monday, ended in a letter of admonition for Tunnell, per I Corps Commander Lt. Gen Curtis “Mike” Scaparotti.
Tunnell’s superiors in Afghanistan lost confidence in him after he threw out the playbook and butted heads with commanders, derisively rejecting capacity-building counterinsurgency doctrine in favor of a “counter-guerilla” strategy that concentrated in engaging and destroying the enemy.
“Soldiers lives are routinely put at hazard because the doctrine has not been written within a context of American military art and science, organization or capability,” he told investigators in his own statement for the report. “US Army forces are not organized, trained, or equipped to implement the doctrine.”
Der Speigel, quoting from the report, said Tunnell was on a personal crusade in Afghanistan to take revenge for being shot in the leg in Irag; He kept the metal rod from his leg on his desk and would use it “as an illustration,” one officer said.
One soldier said of a talk by Tunnell, “If I were to paraphrase the speech and my impressions about the speech in a single sentence, the phrase would be: ‘Let’s kill those motherfuckers.'”
The Washington Post, which also obtained a copy of the report, quotes Brig. Gen. Frederick B. Hodges, then-director of operations in southern Afghanistan:
“Looking back on my relationship with him, I regret that I wasn’t more involved in his professional development during his tenure as a brigade commander,” Hodges said. “I should have specifically told him that MG Carter and I had lost confidence in his ability to command from his failure to follow instructions and intent.”
The Seattle Times reports that Tunnell’s approach inspired fierce loyalty among some soldiers, but alienated some officers.
“What was shocking was the level of … disorganization, the level of mistrust among the lieutenant colonels (in the brigade) and their commander,” said Stjepan Mestrovic, a sociologist who was given access to the report as a defense expert witness for Spc. Jeremy Morlock, who pleaded guilty last month to participating in the murder of the unarmed Afghans.
UPDATE: Tunnell’s break with Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s COIN guidance should have come as no surprise.
In 2009, Army Times’ Sean Naylor detailed in a controversial piece from the war zone how squad leaders in Tunnell’s brigade were vocally upset that Tunnell was calling his own non-COIN plays, and that they felt unprepared for Afghanistan.
Frustration with the disconnect bred a cynical humor at one company command post, where a quote posted on the wall read: “Apparently COIN stands for Clearing Operations in November.”
[via Speigel, Seattle Times, Washington Post]