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Change at the top, as US reviews Afghanistan -

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Reporter: Kim Landers

PETER CAVE: In the United States, a senior member of the Obama administration says the US military
needs "fresh thinking" to turn around the war in Afghanistan.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says that's why he's asked for the resignation of the top
American commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan.

Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: General David McKiernan took command in Afghanistan less than a year ago and he's yet
to get all of the extra US forces that he's been asking for.

But US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says a new leader is needed to implement the Obama
administration's new strategy for Afghanistan.

ROBERT GATES: The focus here is simply on getting fresh thinking, fresh eyes on the problem and how
we implement the strategy and the mission going forward.

KIM LANDERS: General McKiernan has issued a statement saying it's been his distinct honour to serve
with the brave men and women from the countries with troops in Afghanistan.

And he's added, "I have never been prouder to be an American soldier".

His removal comes at a crucial time in the nearly eight year old US military engagement in
Afghanistan.

The US is nearly doubling its forces there to deal with a spreading Taliban insurgency.

Andrew Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He's
also a retired army colonel who served in Vietnam.

He's told The World Today that General McKiernan has to be judged against the rising violence in
Afghanistan.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Over that period of time conditions in Afghanistan have not improved. They have,
in fact, deteriorated. I suspect that it may also be the case - may, I'm not sure - that this
latest bombing incident in western Afghanistan which reportedly resulted in the death of perhaps
100 or more non-combatants, that may also have had something to do with the decision.

That may have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

KIM LANDERS: General McKiernan has been asking for some time for more troops in Afghanistan. He has
only just started to receive those troops so is it unfair if he was asking for more troops to do
the job, to judge him when he is only just getting the resources that he has been asking for?

ANDREW BACEVICH: I would not accept that judgment. I mean these people are paid big money and are
given lots of resources and if they don't get the job done then they need to be removed and
replaced by somebody who can get the job done.

KIM LANDERS: General McKiernan is being replaced by Lieutenant-General Stanley McChrystal - a
former special operations commander whose elite forces have been credited with some of the most
notable battlefield successes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

ANDREW BACEVICH: McKiernan's background is very much a mainstream conventional career and it seems
quite clear that Gates is perhaps, Gates speaking for the President in this regard, doesn't think
that that conventional approach is what is going to be required and so McChrystal arguably is
somebody whose professional background is more suited to this kind of work.

KIM LANDERS: The US mission in Afghanistan is nearly eight years old. There are a lot of extra
troops being sent, there is all this talk about a fresh approach and fresh thinking but really,
what is it going to take for success in Afghanistan?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Oh, I think that is actually the big question, the $64 question. My own judgement
is that is what is needed here is not simply a new commander or discussion of new tactics. What is
needed is fundamental questions about whether or not the United States needs to persist in a war
which, as you say, has now gone on almost eight years with no end in sight.

My own view would be that that war is really not necessary in order for us to secure the vital
national security interests of the United State or of the West more broadly.

PETER CAVE: Professor Andrew Bacevich ending that report from our Washington correspondent Kim
Landers.