Saturday, November 5, 2011

No. 2 in NATO Afghanistan Training Program Sacked

KABUL - A United States general working with NATO's training mission in Afghanistan has been fired after accusing President Hamid Karzai and his corruption-plagued administration of being out of touch and ungrateful for American support.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller, deputy commander of NATO's mission to train and equip Afghan forces, was dismissed after making "inappropriate public comments," the NATO-led international force said late Nov. 4.
Fuller's comments made public some of the frustrations expressed privately by U.S. and other foreign military officers and diplomats about working with Karzai and his government.
In an interview published by news website Politico on Nov. 3, Fuller said Afghan leaders did not fully recognize the human and financial cost borne by the United States in Afghanistan and were "isolated from reality."
He also directly criticized Karzai after the president said last month that Afghanistan would support Pakistan if Islamabad ever went to war with the United States.
"Why don't you just poke me in the eye with a needle?" Fuller said of Karzai's comments.
"You've got to be kidding me... I'm sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion and now you're telling me, 'I don't really care?' " He added: "When they are going to have a presidential election, you hope they get a guy that's more articulate in public."
U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said the remarks did not reflect the state of the international force's relationship with Karzai's administration.
"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," Allen said in a statement.
"The Afghan people are an honorable people and comments such as these will not keep us from accomplishing our most critical and shared mission - bringing about a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan."
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta fully backed the decision to dismiss Fuller with immediate effect, spokesman U.S. Navy Capt. John Kirby said.
A spokesman for ISAF in Kabul, U.S. Navy Lt. Gregory Keeley, said it did not have any information on whether Fuller would be leaving the military or redeploy to another role.
Last year, U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then commander of international troops in Afghanistan, was dismissed by President Obama over comments made by him and his aides about senior political leaders to Rolling Stone magazine.
NATO's mission to train and equip the Afghan army and police to take increasing control of security after foreign combat troops leave in 2014 is seen as one of the most important parts of the military effort in Afghanistan.
Afghan security force numbers have increased significantly in recent years, growing from around 190,000 in late 2009 to about 305,000 today. That figure is due to rise to 352,000 by November next year.
But problems persist, including poor literacy and questions over issues such as cronyism.
News of Fuller's sacking emerged as U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger on Nov. 5 took overall command of NATO's training mission in Afghanistan from U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who has completed a two-year tour of duty.
Elsewhere in the interview, Fuller used an unusual analogy to illustrate how he had to tell Afghan officials why they could not have equipment like F-16 fighter jets and tanks.
"You can teach a man how to fish, or you can give them a fish," said Fuller.
"Were giving them fish while they're learning and they want more fish! [They say] I like swordfish, how come you're giving me cod? Guess what? Cod's on the menu today."
He added that one unidentified Afghan figure had told him he only wanted tanks so he could use them in parades.

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