David McKiernan

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David McKiernan is a retired general in the United States Army, whose final assignment was commanding the International Security Assistance Force, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Afghanistan. He had been a commander or operations officer for every level from platoon to Third United States Army, to the United States Army (i.e., DCSOPS, or deputy chief of staff for operations). He was the Ground Component Commander of the conventional land forces that invaded Iraq in 2003.

On May 12, 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates asked for McKiernan's resignation; he was replaced by Stanley McChrystal.[1]. McChrystal comes from a special operations background, as opposed to McKiernan's in armor; Gates is reported to have felt that McKiernan was being competent, but not creative enough against insurgents. Gates agreed this would end his career, although many four-star officers serve in only one assignment before retiring; there are few promotions available at that highest rank.

His strategic adviser, Paul Farnan, [2] wrote that McKiernan made significant progress in developing common cause both on the international and on the Afghan tribal front. "The general has traveled around the country and has held countless forums, known as shuras, with Afghans in various localities. He has engaged local and provincial leaders one on one to hear their concerns and ensure that they understood the intentions of the international coalition. All of our Special Forces operations combined cannot win the support of the Afghan people the way these shuras do. " Farnan observed, as have others, that there is no short-term solutio to Afghanistan.


He was made a full general in 2005, and assigned as commander of USAREUR, the land component commander for United States European Command. He went to ISAF from that job.

Iraq War and immediate aftermath

McKiernan commanded the invasion force, having objected to his being given too small a force for securing the battle area. His disagreement over this, with Donald Rumsfeld, then the Secretary of Defense, may have led to his not being assigned to stay in Iraq after the invasion.

Prior European service

From August 1998 until September 1999, he served as DCSOPS for USAREUR and Seventh United States Army during a period of simultaneous operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, and Kosovo.

In July 1996, General McKiernan joined the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff G-2/G-3 both forward deployed in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and also in Rheindahlen, Germany. He then became the 1st Infantry Division Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver).

Early career

He entered the Army through the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the College of William and Mary.


  1. Ann Scott Tyson (May 12, 2009), "Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Is Fired", Washington Post
  2. Defending Gen. McKiernan, May 25, 2009