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Monday, January 05, 2015

Leadership in the media spotlight - General John F. Campbell

57-year-old John Campbell is one of the youngest four-star generals in the Army and serving his third tour in Afghanistan.

CBS broadcast journalist Lara Logan tested the patience, but in so doing, demonstrated the leadership of American four star General John F. Campbell, during a January 4th, 60 Minutes television interview.  

Ms. Logan appeared to over reach in her interview with U.S. Army General John F. Campbell, who is the Commander, of International Security Assistance Force and United States Forces-Afghanistan.
General John F. Campbell

My blogger message to Ms. Logan is this:  If your intention is to create the news, then go to the source of the stories, rather than put a four star general on media trial. Your power driven statements to General Campbell were fishing for a "gottcha" response.  As a result, your questioning served to demonstrate the patience and leadership traits of a competent American General.  Certainly, the stoic General Campbell is a man I would put in charge of the entire War on Terror, because he didn't even blink in the face of your high pressure interview.  

In other words, Ms. Logan, your questions (or, rather, the statements you made that intended to be questions) should be addressed to the Commander in Chief. For your information, it's the President who creates the news. General Campbell is in charge of enforcing the strategy created by the Commander in Chief.

Just loved the interview snip where General Campbell challenged Ms. Logan by responding, "...and your question is...?".

Moreover, when Ms. Logan was provided with a fantastic electric light flight overview of the once dark, Kabul, Afghanistan, to demonstrate progress made by the US intervention, she had to include how most of the nation is still without electricity. Well, as a matter of fact, lots of places in the world don't have electricity. She missed the point of the fly over, which was to demonstrate how a poor nation like Afghanistan can fight back against terrorism by having electricity supplied to the major capital city.  

I probably wouldn't be so critical of Ms. Logan's conversation with General Campbell, if she didn't appear to be "cute" when conducting a parallel segment with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Her demeanor with Ghani was not consistent with the affect she presented to General Campbell.

Ending America's longest war:  Lara Logan reports from Afghanistan on the future of the country as the U.S.-led coalition draws down its forces.

Navigating the end of the longest war in American history is the job of General John Campbell, the last four-star general of the war.

His mission is making sure that after the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, the Afghan Security Forces do not go the way of Iraq, where territory that was fought over and won by the U.S., at great cost, was lost because the Iraqi military wasn't strong enough to hold the enemy back.

Could the same thing happen in Afghanistan? The U.S. combat mission officially ended on December 31st, but in a sign the Afghans need more time, the U.S. agreed to still play a limited role on the battlefield. Under Gen. Campbell's command, American forces will fly combat operations for Afghan troops when needed and U.S. Special Operations Forces will continue to hunt down al Qaeda with their Afghan counterparts. But, after 13 years of fighting, the war as Americans have known it is over.

America's longest war is being reduced to dust and rubble. You can see it at Bagram Airfield...half the base is gone. Barracks, where soldiers slept, torn down. Bunkers bulldozed into piles of sandbags.

Equipment and vehicles shipped out at a relentless pace and close to 300 U.S. bases shut down to meet the deadlines set by President Obama. Much of what is left now belongs to the Afghans.

Gen. John Campbell: We've been at this for 13 years, been a lot of blood, sweat, tears. But I've seen some good progress, as well.

57-year-old John Campbell is one of the youngest four-star generals in the Army and this is his third tour in Afghanistan.

To show us what billions of dollars in foreign aid has done to make Kabul more modern, he flew us over the city just hours after we arrived. This was among the darkest capitals in the world when the U.S. got here. Now, the ancient city is ablaze with light.

Gen. John Campbell: This is a perspective people don't get. Kabul at night here. The lights.

Lara Logan: When I came into Kabul for the first time with the Afghan forces, when they took the city from the Taliban in 2001, there wasn't a single light--

Gen. John Campbell: Just take a look at the highway lights.
Kabul Afghanistan at night

"We've been at this for 13 years, been a lot of blood, sweat, tears. But I've seen some good progress, as well."

(Logan)....But millions of people across Afghanistan are still without power and the lack of security threatens whatever progress has been made.

Last year was the deadliest of the war: more than 5,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen killed.

At this memorial down south in Kandahar, Gen. Campbell paid tribute to some of their fallen. Afghan Major General Abdul Hamid was at his side. He lost close to 200 of his men this past year.

Lara Logan: You believe that the Afghan security forces, particularly the Afghan National Army, doesn't get the credit it deserves.

Gen. John Campbell: It's the number one respected institution in Afghanistan. Couple years ago, I probably wouldn't have said that, but today it is. They've taken this fight on, they've gotten 'em through two very, very tough fighting seasons and the last one predominantly all on their own.

Lara Logan: The Afghan government can't afford to pay for them. The Afghan army, the police, the air force, they're all paid for by the U.S. and its allies. Casualty rates -- they're dying in huge numbers. Unsustainable, according to your deputy. The attrition rate's another area of concern.

Gen. John Campbell: Yeah, I mean, there's challenges. They know that the army they have today probably will not be the size several years from now. They just can't afford that. The casualties you brought up, you have to take a look and put that in context. So, in fighting season 14, their operational tempo was at least four times greater so you expect probably casualties to go up a little bit.

Leading the fight...Afghanistan's elite Special Operations units. The Defense Department released this video, which shows Afghan commandos on a nighttime clearing operation. At the height of the fighting season this past summer, they carried out over 150 missions every month. Eight years ago, these forces didn't exist.

Gen. Campbell flew us out to their main training facility in the high desert on the southern edge of Kabul, where they allowed us a rare opportunity to see some of these soldiers up close.

They have their own wing of specialized pilots and on this training exercise, the Afghan commandos showed how they would assault an enemy compound. While they operate mostly on their own, they still rely heavily on the U.S. in areas like intelligence and logistics. And there are fears over what will happen when the Americans withdraw, heightened by the collapse of U.S. trained forces in Iraq.

Gen. John Campbell: There is a lot more talk, from many of the senior leaders I deal with on the Afghan Security Forces, about Iraq and Syria and what's going on, and saying, "Hey, the coalition left Iraq, and a couple years later, look what happened. Don't let that happen to us here in Afghanistan."

Lara Logan: The U.S. significantly underestimated the risks of withdrawing completely from Iraq. Do you face any of the same risks here?

Gen. John Campbell: The fundamental difference is that the senior leadership, both on the military side and in the government, want the coalition. They want the U.S. to stay here.

Lara Logan: But do we share any of the same risks?

Gen. John Campbell: There'll still continue to be threats here in Afghanistan that will try to dictate that is it not stable. So absolutely.

Gen. Campbell has to weigh those risks against his orders to end this war for Americans. Here, he was pinning medals on some of the soldiers he was sending home. Under President Obama's mandate, U.S. troops are now down to about 10,000. There'll be half of that in a year. And, in December 2016, the U.S. mission is supposed to be over.

Lara Logan: You're operating on the president's timeline here. How much wiggle room do you have?

Gen. John Campbell: As any commander gets on the ground, he has to make an assessment and then provide his best military advice with senior leadership. So I'm constantly making those assessments.

Lara Logan: So you don't feel boxed in?

Gen. John Campbell: Well, I-- I feel like-- you know, I'm a four-star general, I'm not sure what you mean by "boxed in." If it means boxed in on the number of people I can have here and the timeline I'm on, again, if the administration just wanted somebody to come here and say, "Hey, you're not gonna make any changes, you're gonna do X," then they wouldn't need a leader that had the experience. They wouldn't have picked me.

Julie's comment:
Thank you General Campbell.  If I were the Commander in Chief, you'd be my choice to lead the World War on Terror, because I have confidence you could win it for us, once and for all.

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