Maj. General Peter Fuller Fired Over Remarks About Afghan Government

On Thursday, Politico published a little-noticed story in which the deputy commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan unloaded on the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai:

Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller, deputy commander of the American-led NATO effort to train and equip Afghan security forces, told POLITICO in an interview that top leaders in the Afghan government had not fully recognized the sacrifices in “treasure and blood” that the U.S. was making for their security and recalled that a senior Afghan official even demanded the transfer of tanks just so they could be used for parades.

The two-star general flashed irritation when he brought up Karzai’s recent remarks that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan in a war against the U.S., blasting the president’s comments as “erratic,” and adding, “Why don’t you just poke me in the eye with a needle! You’ve got to be kidding me … I’m sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion and now you’re telling me, ‘I don’t really care’?”

“When they are going to have a presidential election, you hope they get a guy that’s more articulate in public,” Fuller said during a visit to Washington for a conference.

Karzai is term-limited and will not be running for another term. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Karzai’s remarks have been misunderstood.

Fuller recently involved Afghan generals in a strategic review of the U.S. mission and said that they didn’t understand the extent to which America is in economic distress.

“I said, ‘You guys are isolated from reality.’ The reality is, the world economy is having some significant hiccups. The U.S. is in this [too],” Fuller told POLITICO. “If you’re in a very poor country like Afghanistan, you think that America has roads paved in gold, everybody lives in Hollywood. They don’t understand the sacrifices that America is making to provide for their security. And I think that’s part of my job to educate ’em.”

The problem, he says, is a mentality that the Soviets left behind in Afghanistan.

“We didn’t buy them a lot of things that they had seen bought previously by the Soviets, the tanks and the jets. So they asked for them,'” Fuller said. “They say, ‘Well, the Russians gave us this.'”

Fuller says he responds by saying, “‘You’re telling us that you’re not appreciative of $11.2 billion from the U.S. this year? We have challenges going on in our own country, and this is our national treasure.'”

It reminds one of the controversy in 2010 over remarks that General Stanley McChrystal, then commanding the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, made in a Rolling Stone interview. Of course McChrystal allowed himself and his staff to be quoted openly criticizing military and civilian superiors, which led to his being summoned back to Washington in record time. Most likely due to the fact that he was a four-star with a long record, McChrystal was allowed to retire, at his current rank no less. In Fuller’s case, things didn’t go quite so smoothly:

KABUL, Afghanistan — A senior American general stationed in Afghanistan has been fired for criticizing President Hamid Karzai in a published interview.

The NATO and American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John R. Allen, announced in a news release on Saturday that he was dismissing Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller, the deputy commander for programs at the NATO training mission in Afghanistan, effective immediately. “The decision follows recent inappropriate public comments made by Major General Fuller,” General Allen said.

The statement was issued early Saturday morning in Kabul, where General Fuller had been on a speaking tour. It came shortly after a Thursday interview with the two-star American Army general was published by the news Web site Politico.

General Fuller was responding to remarks made by President Karzai a week earlier in which he told a Pakistani interviewer that Afghanistan would come to Pakistan’s aid if attacked by the United States.

“Why don’t you just poke me in the eye with a needle! You’ve got to be kidding me,” General Fuller said. “I’m sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion and now you’re telling me, ‘I don’t really care?’ ”

General Fuller also described President Karzai as erratic and inarticulate.

It was the second time in the last year and a half that a senior American general lost his job over remarks made to a journalist. In June 2010, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal was forced to resign by President Obama for remarks the general and his staff purportedly made that were critical of the White House, and which were quoted in a Rolling Stone magazine article. Aides to General McChrystal maintained the remarks were intended to be off the record.

That was not an issue in the Politico article, and no one argued that General Fuller was misquoted. “As far as we know, that was the statement he made, the inappropriate comments he made that were published,” said Lt. Col. Jimmie E. Cummings Jr., a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force here. “As far as we know, it was on the record.”

Added General Allen, in the statement, “These unfortunate comments are neither indicative of our current solid relationship with the government of Afghanistan, its leadership, or our joint commitment to prevail here in Afghanistan.”

Colonel Cummings said General Allen made the decision to relieve General Fuller on his own, and not in response to any reaction or pressure from President Karzai or the Afghan government.

Fuller’s comments were clearly not appropriate for the second in command of a U.S. expeditionary force in a sovereign nation and putative ally, regardless of the fact that they largely seem to be completely accurate. What this means for his future career in the military, I’m not entire sure but it doesn’t appear he’ll have the smooth landing that McChrystal has largely because of the lower rank.

 

FILED UNDER: Asia, Military Affairs, National Security, Quick Takes, US Politics, World Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Suzanne says:

    He spoke his mind, that takes balls.
    He is not a lemming, that is good.
    That”s okay, he needs a different job, that one was not for him any longer. Nothing wrong with that.

  2. John Peabody says:

    Yes, he may have wanted to move on. What better way than by saying exactly what everyone is thinking? No worries…they day hasn’t come when I will feel pain for a fired general officer.

  3. dave kski says:

    this man spoke his ming after their president said he would back iran in a was against us..fuck that whole shit i think we should pull everyone out and focus on us. if your an american and you hate what this decorated genes said then go fuck yourself…you are dumb and ignorant to that is going on in the the word right now. we help everybody lets go into a period of isolation like the clinton aged are worry about our damn selves suck my dick I’m smarter than all you bitch GET AT ME

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    @dave kski:

    Truly a thoughtful and well written response. Well said!

  5. Lomax says:

    One of the big problems with these wars is that a lot of the military, and the president’s hands are being tied by Congress. This is what prevented the US from winning Vietnam. Both Johnson and Nixon did not have the freedom to authorize and empower our soldiers to win the war. I will agree that there probably wasn’t a plan to win. That is rule # 2: have a plan to win and a plan to exit. Rule #1: do not get involved in these dirt bag countries: they do not care about us and do not want us there.

  6. mike says:

    @Lomax: and how exactly is Congress tying the military’s hands? What you have the military do? Carpet bomb? What this guy said was probably 100% true and what everyone is thinking, but he shouldn’t have said it; his job there is as much political as it is strategy.