Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to announce Monday afternoon that he is replacing Gen. David McKiernan as the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan with Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, defense officials tell CNN.
Gates is planning to make the announcement at a Pentagon news conference. The change comes as the Obama administration puts increased emphasis on the fight against resurgent Taliban militants in Afghanistan. Gates visited Afghanistan last week. Before leaving on that trip, Gates told CNN that the Taliban in Afghanistan have “momentum” that makes any effort to negotiate with them difficult. “The political level of the Taliban probably isn’t ready to think about reconciliation or any kind of accommodation at this point,” Gates told CNN. “They probably feel like they have the momentum with them. And until that momentum changes, it will be difficult.” As part of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, the military and Afghanistan government are attempting to reach out to elements of the Taliban who are engaged in the battle for financial gain, rather than ideological gain. “There are really two groups we’re talking about — the younger, or less committed, who do this mainly to earn a living and put food on the table for their families, and those that are more ideologically committed. The latter are going to be a tougher pull, and we’ll probably have to wait awhile before there’s an opportunity there.” McChrystal currently serves as director of the Joint Staff in Washington, D.C. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant out of West Point in 1976. Before becoming Joint Staff director, McChrystal was head of the Joint Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.