Green Berets have growing doubts of duties with skittish political leadership
They were the first troops to hit the ground in Afghanistan while al Qaeda’s dirty work still smoldered back in the United States.
On foot, helicopter and horseback, Army Special Forces showed that if the U.S. was to win a long counterinsurgency war against Islamic extremists, the special skills of Green Berets would be fundamental.
Nearly 14 years later, these soldiers, some of the military’s smartest and best trained, are still creating lots of headlines, but not necessarily for heroics.
In recent months, the Army has disciplined, admonished and ended the careers of a number of Green Berets for actions that the soldiers themselves believe were part of combating an evil enemy. Pristine standards for fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda are not achievable, some in the community say.
“There is certainly a belief that upper echelons of leadership have morphed into political positions, and leaders are a lot less willing to risk their own career to support their soldiers,” Danny Quinn, a former Green Beret team leader and West Point graduate, told The Washington Times. Examples abound:
Army Secretary John McHugh stripped a Green Beret of his Silver Star for summarily killing a Taliban bomb maker.
A military investigation blamed two Green Berets for the worst U.S. friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan, when critical errors were made by the Air Force crew that dropped the bombs onto their soldiers.
The Army fired a Green Beret from his hostage rescue post at the Pentagon and put him under criminal investigation for whistlingblowing to Congress.
The Army is kicking out a Green Beret for pushing an Afghan police officer accused a raping a boy.
Maj. Matt Golsteyn, one of the Green Berets in the Army’s crosshairs, said the group’s motto, De Oppresso Liber (“To Free the Oppressed”), presents a “moral imperative for action against those who would use violence and injustice as means for repression.”
“It would seem the lives and careers of Green Berets who would dare to see the organization’s motto realized on foreign soil are sacrificed for politics and careerism,” the Afghanistan War veteran told The Times. “As we witness continual displays of failure after failure in military leadership, our collective failure to liberate the oppressed in Iraq and Afghanistan should confuse no longer.”
No one says the military is specifically targeting Green Berets, but there has been a rash of punishments for these soldiers for actions in warfare that they believed were justified.
Joe Kasper, chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, said the discipline is “causing a high sense of discomfort and concern with that small community.”
“What we hear consistently is what many of these soldiers can’t say publicly, and that is Army leadership has created an environment that has soldiers second-guessing themselves and hesitating constantly, and one misstep — whether intended or not — is a career killer,” Mr. Kasper said. “All of it has had an impact on morale and retention, and it should sound alarm bells for the Army.” A snapshot of recent cases:
Mr. McHugh, the Army secretary, stripped Maj. Golsteyn of his Silver Star, one of the military’s highest awards for combat valor, after he acknowledged in a CIA job interview that he killed a Taliban bomb maker suspected of killing U.S. troops. The Army never charged Maj. Golsteyn after a lengthy investigation. Mr. Hunter wants Congress to strip service secretaries of such powers.
The Army opened a criminal investigation of Lt. Col. Jason Amerine, one of the first Green Berets to land in Afghanistan in 2001, after he complained