David D. McKiernan

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David D. McKiernan
David D. McKiernan.jpg
Born (1950-12-11) December 11, 1950 (age 72)
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1972–2009
Commands heldInternational Security Assistance Force
United States Forces – Afghanistan
Seventh United States Army
Third United States Army
Coalition Forces Land Component Command
1st Cavalry Division
1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division
1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment
Battles/warsGulf War
Iraq War
War in Afghanistan
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Army Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit (3)
Bronze Star Medal

David D. McKiernan (born December 11, 1950) is a retired United States Army four-star general who served in Afghanistan as Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).[1][2] He served concurrently as Commander, United States Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A) from October 6, 2008, to June 15, 2009.[3]

Prior to Afghanistan, McKiernan was Commanding General, United States Army, Europe and Seventh United States Army from December 14, 2005, to May 2, 2008.[4] Before promotion to four-star rank, he served as Commanding General, Third United States Army and Coalition Forces Land Component Command from 2002 to 2004, where he commanded all allied ground forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and as Deputy Commanding General, United States Army Forces Command, the army's largest major command,[citation needed] from 2004 to 2005.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said new leadership was needed as the administration of President Barack Obama launched a new strategy in the seven-year-old War in Afghanistan.[5][6] McKiernan was replaced by two generals, General Stanley A. McChrystal (Commander) and Lieutenant General David M. Rodriguez (Deputy Commander), ISAF and USFOR-A.[3]

Army career[edit]

McKiernan graduated from the College of William & Mary with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1972. He was commissioned from the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and entered active duty as an Armor officer. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Shippensburg University and an honorary doctorate in public service from William & Mary.

McKiernan's commands have included:

McKiernan gained experience in the Balkans as a staff officer in the 1990s. In July 1996, McKiernan joined the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff G2/G3, forward deployed in both Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rheindahlen (Mönchengladbach), Germany. From August 1998 until September 1999, he served as Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Headquarters, United States Army, Europe and Seventh Army during a period of simultaneous operations in Bosnia, Albania, and Kosovo.

Prior to these appointments McKiernan served in the VII Corps Headquarters during the Gulf War and then as the G3 in the 1st Cavalry Division (approx 1992-3) in the rank of lieutenant colonel. The first appointment was probably his first experience of working with other officers or formed units of other nationalities, in the second he had British Exchange Officers on his staff.[citation needed]

In 2001, McKiernan was assigned as G3 (Operations), Headquarters, Department of the Army. Following that posting, in September 2002, General McKiernan assumed command of the Third United States Army and United States Army Forces Central Command, and became the Coalition Forces Land Component Commander for United States Central Command in preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom. In March 2003, McKiernan led all coalition and United States conventional ground forces that attacked Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Following his assignment as ground forces commander, McKiernan was assigned as Deputy Commanding General/Chief of Staff for United States Army Forces Command, the largest major command in the Army which is responsible for the readiness and deployment of army forces based in the United States. Then he assumed command of Seventh Army/United States Army Europe. He was then assigned to Afghanistan as Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and United States Forces-Afghanistan from June 3, 2008, to June 15, 2009.

Iraq War troop levels debate[edit]

In their book, Cobra II, military historians Michael Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor suggest that McKiernan was unhappy to hear of the cancellation of the deployment of the 1st Cavalry Division, a 17,000-soldier force that was scheduled to arrive in Iraq as a follow-on reinforcement. Its deployment was cancelled on April 21, 2003, after U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld raised the issue of whether it was needed. Previously, shortly before the war, McKiernan won Pentagon approval for a new war plan that increased the number of ground troops, calling the new war plan COBRA II.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, McKiernan had a different view of the battlefield than his superior, General Tommy Franks.[7] McKiernan saw the Fedayeen Saddam fighters as a major threat and one of the "centers of gravity" in Iraq, while Franks dismissed the importance of the irregulars.[7] The military was also surprised when McKiernan and his staff were not given command for post-war operations in Iraq, which instead went to V Corps and the newly promoted Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.[7]

Targeted killing[edit]

In a 2008 interview by Der Spiegel, McKiernan was asked whether Germany was a particularly difficult ally considering that its government requested limitations on its soldiers' deployment in Afghanistan, feeling that it might violate Germany's constitution if they were to conduct a targeted killing in the absence of a direct attack.[8] McKiernan responded:

If ... the decision has been a legal and political decision back in Germany ... I accept that. But as a soldier, I don't understand it. I don't understand ever putting your men and women in harm's way without their having the full ability to protect themselves. That also means operating on actionable intelligence to defeat insurgents, and protect your forces. That's how you keep your soldiers alive.[8]

Awards and decorations[edit]

McKiernan awards and decorations include, but are not limited to:

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with oak leaf cluster)
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal (with two oak leaf clusters)
Defense Superior Service Medal ribbon.svg Defense Superior Service Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit (with two oak leaf clusters)
Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal
Defense Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Meritorious Service Medal (with three oak leaf clusters)
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Commendation Medal (with three oak leaf clusters)
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Achievement Medal (with two oak leaf clusters)
United States Air Force Parachutist Badge.svg Parachutist Badge (United States)
Ranger Tab.svg Ranger Tab


  1. ^ Nominations Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Second Session. DIANE Publishing. 2010-11-18. p. 49. Retrieved April 20, 2014. David D. McKiernan 1950.
  2. ^ "McKiernan Assumes Command of NATO Forces in Afghanistan". American Forces Press Service. June 3, 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Press Conference with Secretary Gates and Adm. Mullen on Leadership Changes in Afghanistan From the Pentagon". DefenseLink News Transcript. May 11, 2009.
  4. ^ Dave Melancon , U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs Office (May 9, 2008). "McKiernan says farewell to U.S. Army Europe as he heads to Afghanistan to command international force". Army.mil. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
  5. ^ "US replaces general in Afghanistan as war worsens". Associated Press. May 11, 2009.[dead link]
  6. ^ Jelinek, Pauline (May 11, 2009). "US replaces general in Afghanistan as war worsens". The Guardian. Associated Press. Retrieved 2013-01-22. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he asked for the resignation of Gen. David McKiernan. Gates said new leadership is needed as the Obama administration launches its strategy in the seven-year-old campaign. The change aims to "get fresh thinking, fresh eyes on the problem," Gates told a Pentagon news conference.
  7. ^ a b c Gordon, Michael; Trainor, Bernard E. (March 13, 2006). "Dash to Baghdad Left Top U.S. Generals Divided". The New York Times. New York City, New York. Retrieved October 2, 2008.
  8. ^ a b David McKiernan, interviewee (July 28, 2008). "Interview with NATO's Afghanistan Commander: 'A Counter-Insurgency Takes a Long Time, Longer than We Thought'". Der Spiegel. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
Military offices
Preceded by Commanding General of the Third United States Army
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commanding General of United States Army Europe/Seventh United States Army
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)
Commander, United States Forces – Afghanistan

Succeeded by