No doubt Gen. John Allen, the senior U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, will receive criticism for being a “politically correct” general after he fired Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller, deputy commander of the NATO training command, for making belittling comments about senior Afghan leaders. Fuller was quoted in an interview as saying that Karzai and other top Afghans are “isolated from reality.” That may be true; certainly it is a sentiment widely shared by Westerners who have to deal with them. But it’s not helpful to say so publicly. After all, our success in Afghanistan depends on standing up durable Afghan institutions, and that requires us to work with the leaders of those institutions.
There are many issues on which we must press the Afghans to take steps they would rather not take, and it is important that an atmosphere of trust and confidence be established where our representatives can exert maximum leverage. Fuller’s comments undermine the kind of trust needed to accomplish our mission, so Allen was right to relieve him. If only Afghan leaders held their subordinates similarly accountable for far more egregious missteps!