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David D. McKiernan is a retired United States Army four-star general who served in Afghanistan as Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from June 3, 2008 to June 15, 2009. He served concurrently as Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) from October 6, 2008 to June 15, 2009.

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

On May 11, 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked for McKiernan's resignation from ISAF and USFOR-A. Gates said new leadership was needed as the administration of President Barack Obama launched a new strategy in the seven-year-old Afghanistan war.
 McKiernan was replaced by two generals, General Stanley A. McChrystal (Commander) and Lieutenant General David Rodriguez (Deputy Commander), ISAF and USFOR-A.

Army career

McKiernan graduated from The College of William & Marymarker in 1972 where he received an ROTC commission; McKiernan then entered the Army. He holds an MPA from Shippensburg Universitymarker and an honorary doctorate in Public Service from his alma mater, William & Marymarker.

His commands have included:

McKiernan gained experience in the Balkans as a staff officer in the 1990s. In July 1996, General McKiernan joined the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corpsmarker (ARRC), serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff G2/G3, forward deployed in both Sarajevomarker, Bosnia-Herzegovinamarker and Rheindahlenmarker (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, Albaniamarker, and Kosovomarker.

Prior to these appointments he served in the VII Corps Headquarters during the First Gulf War (Liberation of Kuwait) and then as the G3 in the 1st Cavalry Division (approx 1992-3) in the rank of LTC. 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.

In 2001, he was assigned as G3 (Operations), Headquarters, Department of the Army. Following that posting, in September 2002, General McKiernan assumed command of the Third U.S. Army and U.S. Army Forces Central Command (ARCENT), and became the Coalition Forces Land Component Commander for U.S. Central Command in preparation for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. In March 2003, General McKiernan led all coalition and U.S. 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 United States Army which is responsible for the readiness and deployment of Army forces based in the U.S. Most recently, he assumed command of Seventh Army/U.S. Army Europe.

Iraq War Troop Levels Debate

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, McKiernen 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, he had a different view of the battlefield than his superior, General Tommy Franks. McKiernan saw the Saddam Fedayeen fighters as a major threat and one of the "centers of gravity" in Iraq, while Franks dismissed the importance of the irregulars. 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 Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez.


McKiernan greets Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on May 6, 2009 -- five days before his replacement.

United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with McKiernan in Afghanistan on May 6, 2009.Gates announced McKiernan's replacement on May 11, 2009.

McKiernan's replacement wasLieutenant GeneralStanley A. McChrystal.The Washington Post called it a "a rare decision to remove a wartime commander".

The Washington Post described the replacement as one of several replacement of Generals who represented the "traditional Army" with Generals "who have pressed for the use of counter-insurgency tactics".

Despite this, McKiernan retired with full honors on July 15, 2009. Secretary Gates praised him for his leadership at every military level and presented him with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal for his service. He also received the Army Distinguished Service Medal from his retirement ceremony host, Army Chief of Staff, General George W. Casey, Jr.

Awards and decorations

McKiernan awards and decorations include, but are not limited to:
Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with oak leaf cluster)
Army Distinguished Service Medal (with two oak leaf clusters)
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit (with two oak leaf clusters)
Bronze Star
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal (with three oak leaf clusters)
Army Commendation Medal (with three oak leaf clusters)
Army Achievement Medal (with three oak leaf clusters)
Parachutist Badge
Ranger Tab


  2. Gates Praises McKiernan’s Leadership at Retirement Ceremony

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