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Military Shake-up in Afghanistan Signals New Strategy Push

Defense Secretary Robert Gates tapped Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the new top commander in Afghanistan, replacing Gen. David McKiernan. Time magazine's Pentagon reporter Mark Thompson examines the move.

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    The U.S. military leadership in Afghanistan got a shake-up today. Defense Secretary Gates brought in a new overall commander as the war with the Taliban escalates.

    Gates asked Army General David McKiernan to step down after less than a year on the job. His replacement is Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, a former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command. Army Lieutenant General David Rodriguez was named deputy commander for Afghanistan. Both changes are subject to Senate confirmation.

    Secretary Gates announced them at a briefing with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.

    ROBERT GATES, secretary of Defense: We have not been able to fully resource our military effort in Afghanistan in recent years. But I believe, resources or no, that our mission there requires new thinking and new approaches from our military leaders.

    Today we have a new policy set by our new president. We have a new strategy, a new mission, and a new ambassador. I believe that new military leadership also is needed.

    After consultation with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commander of Central Command, and with the approval of the president, I have asked for the resignation of General David McKiernan.

    Let none of this detract from, nor cause us ever to forget General McKiernan's long and distinguished career of military service. For decades, in peace and war, Dave McKiernan has led hundreds of thousands of men and women in uniform with conviction, integrity and courage.

    BARBARA STARR, CNN Pentagon correspondent: So what specifically was he not doing that he — you said you wanted fresh thinking, fresh eyes. Did he resist your ideas? Did he resist change? Was he uncooperative with the new thinking, the new way forward? What went wrong here?


    Nothing went wrong, and there was nothing specific. It is — it simply was my conviction, based on my consultations with Admiral Mullen and General Petraeus, that a fresh approach, a fresh look in the context of the new strategy probably was in our best interest.

    ADM. MIKE MULLEN, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff: I have said that we must focus all of our effort in terms of making Afghanistan better. There probably is no more critical ingredient than that than leadership. And, again, along with all the other changes, it's time now. And that's why I made that recommendation.


    I would simply say that both General McChrystal and General Rodriguez bring a unique skill set in counterinsurgency to these issues. And I think that they will provide the kind of new leadership and fresh thinking that the admiral and I have been talking about.


    Margaret Warner continues our lead story report.

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