Between the New York City Police and Correction departments, I led a combined staff of nearly 70,000 men and women, and I oversaw a $4 billion dollar budget.
In the jail system, I had the responsibility of overseeing the 125,000 inmates who entered the system annually; in the police department, I had to worry about the 8 million to 12 million people who lived in, worked in, or visited New York City daily. In both departments, we had enormous successes, much of which I received the credit for, but the reality is that the men and women in the field are responsible for the real successes or failures of any administrator or executive.
An enormous part of leadership is getting the right men and women in place to do the job, knowing and understanding those people, inspiring them to do the job, and then providing them with the tools, and staff they need if you intend to succeed.
Be it a grocery store in New Jersey, a car wash in Florida, a Walmart anywhere in the country, or the NYPD – the principles are all the same. And that goes for our military as well.
Wednesday marked the eight-year anniversary of the U.S. and coalition invasion of Afghanistan after the attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001. A few days earlier, hundreds of Taliban insurgents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades overran two outposts near the Pakistan border, killing eight U.S. soldiers and capturing more than 20 Afghan security troops.
It was one of the deadliest assaults against U.S. forces in more than a year.
Almost simultaneously, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said that the situation in Afghanistan is serious and growing worse — and without more boots on the ground, the United States risks failure in the war it has been waging. That said, we have two choices to make: Give him what he needs to do the job, or pull our troops out and get them home.
Continuing this battle understaffed and ill-equipped is a guarantee for heavier losses that no one wants to see.
Let’s not forget the Soviet–Afghan War, which lasted more than nine years involving the Soviet Union and India, supporting Afghanistan at its request, against the Islamist Mujahedeen Resistance. Supporting the mujahedeen were the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and a few other Muslim nations.
This war ultimately was labeled the Soviets' Vietnam because of the interminable nature of the war and the Soviets' inability to achieve any sort of victory. And that was the Soviet Union, a world power whose idea of the Geneva Convention is using tanks to run over protesters at an antiwar rally.
The U.S. troops and coalition forces in Afghanistan today are fighting a battle in terrain that is nearly impossible, and their enemy is like mountain rats that live in the rocks and caves. What is worse yet is that the enemy likes those conditions.
This is no easy job.
McChrystal said he needs more troops to get the job done. He is the man on the ground tasked with a strategy to accomplish a mission. There’s no better example of this type of exercise than the merger in Iraq and the successes Gen. David Petraeus had in 2008. There’s no need to speak to the members of the Armed Services Committee for advice unless that advice is how to expedite the logistical request and get McChrystal the tools and resources he needs to get that job done.
It's now or never — for every day we waste, we put the lives of those fighting for us on the line even more than they already are. If we are not going to grant the general his request, then call him and his troops home, salute each and every one, and thank them for a job well done.
If we are, then let’s get on with it. McChrystal and the men and women under his command deserve no less.
Until the decision is made one way or another, God speed to all.
Bernard Kerik served as New York City’s 40th police commissioner and Iraq’s interim minister of interior following the fall of Saddam Hussein. Today he is the chairman of The Kerik Group LLC. Visit his Web site at www.thekerikgroup.com.
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