Special forces now report to McChrystal

March 16, 2010 at 7:32 AM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, March 16 (UPI) -- Most of the U.S. Special Operations forces in Afghanistan now are under direct control of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in that country said.

McChrystal said the decision to bring most of the Special Operations troops under his control was made in response to high civilian casualties and reports the Special Forces troops were operating as cowboys, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

"What happens is, sometimes at cross-purposes, you got one hand doing one thing and one hand doing the other, both trying to do the right thing but working without a good outcome," McChrystal told the Times.

Afghan officials, human rights workers and some field commanders of conventional U.S. forces have criticized Special Ops troops, saying they have been responsible for large number of casualties among Afghan civilians and strike out on their own, the Times said. Previously, Special Operations forces followed a separate chain of command.

Maj. Gen. Zahir Azimi, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, said McChrystal told Afghan officials he was taking action because of concern that some U.S. troops weren't following his order to make limiting civilian casualties a priority.

"These special forces were not accountable to anyone in the country, but General McChrystal and we carried the burden of the guilt for the mistakes they committed," Azimi said. "Whenever there was some problem with the special forces, we didn't know who to go to. It was muddled and unclear who was in charge."

Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, McChrystal's deputy chief of staff for communications, said McChrystal issued the directive within "the last two or three weeks."

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