'Kill team' brigade commander pushed 'strike and destroy' [UPDATED]


(U.S. Army photo)

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]

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  1. Rupert Pupkin on

    If only we had Col Tunnell during the Vietnam War. Oh, what a different world we would be living in. Kudos to you my friend.

  2. Horrifying. The United States has found itself employing soldiers who have degenerated into the same type of monsters as Hitler employed as einsatzgruppen during the war, and sees fit, as was the case after My Lai, Abu Ghraib et cet., to suffer anyone to be held to account.

  3. Pingback: ‘Kill Team’ Brigade commander given wrist slap-WARNING GRAPHIC PHOTOS | Colonel6's Blog

  4. War is to break things and kill people……….either get in, get it done and get out……….or don’t go in!!

  5. It’s nice to see a commander do what he is supposed to do….kill the enemy. The only good terrorist is a dead one! These politically correct non”leaders” should stick to their desks and wheelie chairs, they don’t belong having anything to do with combat and warriors like this Colonel. They find a scapegoat and the army loses one of the great leaders….and keeps the mediocre. loosing “yes” men. No wonder the great, young officers and enlisted get out rather than stay in.

  6. Nation building os for the State Department, not the DoD.

    Colonel Tunnell’s mistake was becoming a modern Army officer. The Marines would have been a better fit.

  7. Those weren’t dead terrorists – they were unarmed farmer boys.

    US foreign policy is pretty much nazi anyway. Even shooting their allies.

  8. Anyone who has squeezed off a round or had one pass his ear knows in war, when you’re trying to kill the enemy, keep trying!

  9. 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.”

    * O.K. So here’s my question: Why haven’t Hodges and Carter been issued letters of admonition?

    * Man I miss Hack!

    * Can’t trust the White House…

    * Can’t trust the military brass…

    * Can’t trust the press…

    * Oh, yeah… God bless America – we’re in deep need of His blessing.

  10. Locate, close with and destroy the enemy with fire and manuver or repel the enemies assult with fire and close combat.

    Mission of the United States Marine Corps.

    At least someone in the Army knows how to achieve goals, to bad he lost control of some bad apples.

    Semper Fi

  11. Mike Holiday is a moron on

    Soooooooooo, every muslim is a terrorist? what about Christian terrorists? Oklahoma City bomber thought he was doing God’s work, but that’s so easy to forget when the media puts all the blame for the U.S.’s problems on “Terrorists”. I didn’t know “terrorist” was synonymous with “religious”, but that makes sense considering “religious” zealots don’t even know their own religion abolishes anger, violence, and bigotry. I thought Jesus espoused the ideas of virtuousness, love, and peace? I must be wrong because I don’t agree with what every bible thumping Christian KNOWS (somehow, rather magically) to be true, right?

  12. Mike Holiday is a moron on

    By the way, the Quran is the exact same as the bible, almost, just like it’s the same as the Torrah (hebrew bible). Oh wait… there was someone else crucified before Jesus and then rose from the grave, nearly 1,300 years before. Oh ya, Horus, Egyptian half-god, son of Osiris (He also had 12 disciples, and spread the message of his God the Father). Oh wait, there was someone else before him in another far-off land from Jerusalem…. Oh YAAAAA! Krishna, of India was also crucified, and rose from the grave 3 days later, 2,000 years before Jesus, and 700 years before Osiris. Amazing, 3 different guys, all with the same story. But only Jesus is real, right? The other two are just a myth, right??? I must be wrong, because history lies, especially when it’s thousands of years old…. Wait, isn’t the bible thousands of years old??? WAIT! The Old Testament is actually the Torrah, of Hebrew faith, that tells the tale of the tribes of Israel! I don’t know if I can handle all this false information. It Must Be Lies!!!!
    Unfortunately, it’s not. Jesus is not the first prophet to come from God, and he definitely wasn’t the last (A guy claims he is Jesus right now, and is gaining momentum as religious movement is Puerto Rico, a devout Catholic community, until a better religion comes along).
    Face it, religion, uncontrolled, leads to false discrimination and hate, something some of you seem all to comfortable with..

  13. Tunnel is right! Our rules of engagement are not aimed at winning anything, much less a conflict.
    We need real soldiers like Tunnel in charge, not politicians like …?

  14. Smart people who profess to know what has happened in the past, was not there! Ha ! President Obama sez, go back into Afganistan, we do. Clear out all the farmers growing poppy’s drugs. Protect Russia from
    fenatics, who could give a damn what religion they were for, cuz hunger and war does not discriminate. Population
    control is the only solution, in every country. Not abortion.

  15. Having our soldiers Killing the enemy is a lot more effective in defeating the enemy than having them passing out pamphlets.

  16. Many of our top commanders, up to CIC have lost sight of the truth that the only way to win is to kill the enemy. Anything less will not bring victory. Anything less than victory will not bring peace.

    Col Tunnell never ordered or hinted or gave approval that his troops should harm civilians, he told them to kill the enemy.

    If all our officers and troops were as focused on killing the enemy we would have won years ago.

    I would happily vote for Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV for president, senator, or any elected office so he can help this country implement the winning strategy of killing the enemy.

  17. These war criminals embarrass our country and destroy American moral credibility around the world. Imperial military adventures (multiple endless undeclared wars) also destroy the constitution of our republic, while bleeding it of blood and treasure badly needed for health care and social security and infrastructure and education. We are fast losing the prestige and credibility the USA once had in the world. Now most of the world –even the majority of the citizens in those Euro countries that have historically been our allies– see us as a bully, as arrogant and selfish and dangerous, which unfortunately our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq show is true enough.

    We have historically high unemployment, accompanied by a trade deficit of over 40 billion dollars every month –thanks to the “free trade” policies of the “free market” ideologues ruining our industrial infrastructure and economy. This is a much bigger problem and threat to America than anything in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile we continue to run a fossil fuel economy acidifying the oceans and changing the climate patterns supporting world agriculture.  Meanwhile the USA spends over 40% of global military expenditures, keeps 750 bases abroad, and deploys military personnel in 150 countries simultaneously –on borrowed money.

    None of this is sustainable. Its insane. But Wall Street and their military contractors and the corporate CEO’s are doing GREAT! 

1) Dismantle the US global military empire. Transition from a militarized economy to a civilian economy. Replace welfare with a full employment policy at living wages. Create a Civil Construction Corps to rebuild our slums and crumbling infrastructure. Apply human labor to human need, not war or idleness. 

    2) New Manhattan Project: eliminate fossil fuel and nuclear energy and replace with made-in-USA wind, solar, and water sustainable energy technologies. IT CAN BE DONE. 

3) New “industrial policy”: replace “free-trade” treaties with a co-ordinated set of “fair-trade”, tax and public investment policies that promote US manufacturing. Reward companies creating jobs in USA, punish companies moving operations to low wage pollution-friendly poor countries, use public moneys to encourage R&D and production, especially of sustainable energy technologies. 

    4) We could solve a lot of the problems just by removing the cap on social security and going back to 1980 tax bracket of about 50% for anything over $300,000. 

    These measures taken together will bring us full employment and a higher standard of living for all, as well as a truly sustainable relationship with the the other nations and species of the earth.

  18. Once a victim on

    I have no problem with the military doing it’s job. We see this Colonel smiling at us and see a headline reading “slap on the wrist” for a reason; the WPPA is in play. The West Point Protestion Agreement, which halts the sullying of ANY of our perfumed Prince’s or the Point. This so-called Colonel is only falling into place in a long line SNAFU’s. It is never the leadership’s fault.

  19. Paul Ballmann on

    Here are some questions I have that were not addressed.
    How many soldiers are in the 5th Stryker brigade? They can contain up to 4000 soldiers, who are broken into different unit levels from a fire team (4 or 5 soldiers), Squad, platoon, company, battalion, and finally the brigade. Why wasn’t the rest of the chain of command mentioned? Would someone point their finger blaming the CEO of a company as large as the 5th Stryker Brigade if five employees in a branch office were found guilty of some crime?
    How large was their area of responsibility? Did this crime occur while Col. Tunnell was there? Was he 5 feet, 5 yards, 5 miles away? Was the Brigade given an area that too large and didn’t allow proper command and control of its units?
    Who turned in the kill team? That I can answer, another soldier who found their actions wrong. The chain of command then handled the problem, including Col. Tunnell. While the reason it wasn’t made available to the public earlier may be debated, the fact that the Army did handle is not in dispute.
    It looks like some of the Army’s leadership may be unhappy with Col. Tunnell but that is a separate issue and shouldn’t be included in this story.

  20. So this is the same as last time, huh? The brass gives the order and when it’s discovered what they ordered the people following the orders are the ones punished. Are people really this dense?

  21. stryke destroyer on

    stryke and destroy! too many enemy left over there….looking forward to more widow making. they dont need more schools..wells…hospitals. they need a bigger cemetery for the enemy dead. close with ands destroy the enemy. unless you have been there or carried a weapon in combat, shut the f*ck up.

  22. Usually its anyone below Capt that takes the heat. More Capt’s and Lt’s are lost because you cant pry the higher-up’s from behind their desk’s. Col Tunnell from and old soldier from Korea time’s, got out in 65 but to this day I would follow you to hell and back… You’re the man and God Bless you and I salute you.

  23. Apparently some have forgot what the word WAR means. This is not flag football. Your men go down and there is not reset button. I agree that the problem is that the colonel joined the Army. We don’t play games. Thank you for giving me a chance to express myself.

  24. I served for Col. Tunnell, he was a great leader and when something went wrong that he had no control of and didn’t know was happening, people looked for someone to point fingers at. Strike and Destroy is a great motto. If we don’t go after the enemy to kill them, they will kill us.

  25. I also served under COL Tunnell and I believe he was an awsome motivating commander. He did not tell those certain soldiers to “go kill civilians”, he did tell us in a outside briefing in 2007 when the BDE first stood up that we were not going over there to play nice, we were going to kick the ENEMY’S ASS! I think it was like having a Pit Bull, you train him to fight but then let him fight with a leash on. I am proud to be a 5th Brigade 2ID Soidier and would love to serve under him again. Stryke First!…Stryke and Destroy!!!

  26. Pingback: About That Counter-Insurgency Contract | TIME.com

  27. Pingback: Soldier convicted in triple combat murder case takes lawsuit to federal court - NOQTA

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