Tuesday, April 5, 2011

5th Striker Brigade Commander Criticized in Probe into Killings of Unarmed Afghans

The Washington Post reports that an Army investigation into the brigade commander of the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, has been concluded.  Five soldiers in the brigade have been accused of murdering unarmed Afghan civilians last year.  The report concluded that the brigade commander, Colonel Harry D. Tunnell IV, should have been relieved of duty for poor performance, but pins virtually all the blame on junior officers for failing to prevent the killings. According to the Post, the report harshly criticizes the brigade commander for defying the Army’s "protect-the-population" strategy in Afghanistan and instead adopting the motto "search and destroy."  But the report does not find a causal link between the "aggressive leadership" of the commander and the killings. 

The report concluded that criminal misconduct in the brigade was confined largely to a single platoon.  In addition to being charged with the murder of three unarmed Afghan civilians, soldiers from the platoon have been charged with hoarding body parts and posing for photographs next to their victims. The investigation found that at least 15 members regularly smoked hashish, including in their Stryker combat vehicle.