The Army continues to conceal a review of the commanders who oversaw Stryker soldiers who allegedly murdered Afghan civilians last year, even as portions of the document are leaked to the press or described in court.
Last week, the review of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was leaked to The Washington Post and Germany’s Der Spiegel. Three weeks ago, a sociologist who has read it described it extensively at a Lewis-McChord court martial for one of the suspects.
All three accounts suggest the report, written by Brig. Gen. Stephen Twitty, is critical of former 5th Brigade commander Col. Harry Tunnell. Tunnell now works at the Army accessions command in Fort Knox, Ken.
“Col. Tunnell is no longer in command,” Twitty wrote, according to Der Spiegel. “If still in command, I would recommend that Col. Tunnell be relieved of his responsibilities as a brigade commander.”
The Army has declined to release the 500-page document out of concerns it could prejudice upcoming courts martial for the six Stryker soldiers who still await trials. Five soldiers in the brigade were accused of murdering civilians. Seven others faced other misconduct charges.
The sociologist and the news outlets say Tunnell ran afoul of his commanders by favoring an aggressive counterguerrilla strategy that conflicted with NATO’s efforts to protect civilians.
Tunnell had a reputation as an aggressive and intelligent leader. He praised his soldiers when they came home from Afghanistan for taking the fight to the Taliban and for opening opportunities for social improvements to take root, according to a transcript of his remarks.
Stjepan Mestrovic, the war crimes expert who testified at the recent court martial, urged the Army to release Twitty’s report so the public can gauge whether the Army is holding itself accountable.
The Army “needs to swallow hard and get that out there. The longer it keeps it hidden, it’s conveying the wrong message. The real story here isn’t about a rogue platoon. It’s about a dysfunctional brigade,” Mestrovic said.
So far, lawmakers have not pushed to open hearings on the alleged murders that took place under Tunnell’s command. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, condemned published photos that show murder suspects posing over one of their alleged victims. He hasn’t called for more scrutiny.
Rep. Adam Smith of Tacoma, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said Twitty’s report should be released, but not necessarily before the courts martial are finished.
“At this point, I think the Army is doing what they need to do,” he said. “They certainly moved quickly to prosecute the soldiers involved.”
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646