A group of retired military officers and civilians who worked in government have composed an open letter in support of embattled Lt. Gen. William Caldwell.
Caldwell was recently the focus of a Rolling Stone story by Michael Hastings, the journalist best known for writing a profile of General Stanley McChrystal in which the then-commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan criticized his civilian superiors. Despite some criticism of Hastings’s reporting methods, McChrystal lost his job over the incident.
Hastings then set his sights on Caldwell, the general in charge of training the Afghan military as the U.S. prepares to remove combat troops from the country over the next few years. The article deals with Lt. Col Michael Holmes claim that he was illegally ordered by Caldwell to use psychological warfare techniques against visiting U.S. dignitaries, a charge Caldwell and his staff adamantly deny.
Below is the full letter:
Letter in Support of Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV
The recent article in Rolling Stone about the conduct of LTG William Caldwell is totally contrary to our experience with him, and his conduct as an officer and leader.
We have jointly dealt with, spoken with and listened to LTG Caldwell more than a hundred times and collectively spent thousands of hours working together. We have seen him interact with the leaders of our nation, its military, the media and the public at large. He is, and has always been, honest and professional.
He has been beyond reproach, humble to a fault, unfailingly supportive of civilian leadership and the military chain of command, and a skeptic of anyone who suggests an officer in the United States is anything less. The accusations of a disgruntled officer do not reflect the person or leader we know and are totally disconnected with the reality we have experienced.
The accusations, as reported in this article, misrepresent the operational and command environment in Afghanistan. First, LTG Caldwell’s command does not have a psychological or information operations unit assigned within its structure, because it does not have the authority or the need to have such an entity.
If LTC Michael Holmes had a concern about illegal behavior, why didn’t he exercise his obligation to confront LTG Caldwell directly? It is not just the right of any officer in the United States Army to refuse an illegal order, it is his obligation.
Additionally, the suggestion that any effort was designed to win a “fourth” star for LTG Caldwell rings hollow from its core. LTG Caldwell is not a star shopper, nor a reward seeker. He has led men in combat and peace, and every time those around and above him have recognized his natural command and leadership abilities. The man we know would never endorse or condone any such efforts to promote himself above anyone else. He wouldn’t need to.
By all means the Army should investigate these charges, and should misconduct be found, punish people accordingly.
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) recently said he did not need convincing that we must increase the size and capabilities of the Afghan Security Forces: “I have never needed any convincing on this point. Quite the opposite, my efforts have been aimed at convincing others of the need for larger, more capable Afghan security forces.”
We have all seen or been presenters to Senator Levin and his colleagues. They are not rubbers stamps, and certainly not pushovers of our military’s policies. Senator Levin is a steadfast advocate for doing what he believes is right. Trying to influence Senator Levin’s perceptions would backfire miserably.
The truly unfortunate aspect of this episode of is that an exceptional military leader and person has become ensnared in an unfortunate drama.
Our military and our nation must focus on succeeding in Afghanistan. Our nation and military needs more William Caldwells.
Glenn Ayers, COL, USA Retired
Claude Chafin, former Director of the White House Iraq Fusion Cell
James Davis, former Special Assistant, OSD Public Affairs
Erin Healy, former Director of Communications Outreach, Office of Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs
Pete Hegseth, Chairman of Vets for Freedom, CPT, USA
Robert Holmes, BG, USA Retired
Tom Jones, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, CAPT, USN Retired
Mark Pfeifle, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications
John C. Roberts, Foreign Service Officer, Acting Public Affairs Officer Baghdad, 2005-2007
Dorrance Smith, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
Howard Snow, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, LtCol, USMC Retired
Dan Stanley, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs
Jonathan Thompson, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs