US marine relieved of command after calling out military leaders for Afghanistan chaos

·4 min read
U.S. Soldiers and Marines assist with security at an Evacuation Control Checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, August  19, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan.  (U.S. Central Command Public Affa)
U.S. Soldiers and Marines assist with security at an Evacuation Control Checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, August 19, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Central Command Public Affa)

A colonel in the US Marine Corps has been removed from command after going viral for posting an emotional video demanding “accountability” over the failures of the war in Afghanistan.

Colonel Stuart Scheller, a Marine battalion commander who knew one of the 13 US service members killed in an attack in Kabul on Thursday, posted a video on Facebook blasting senior military and political leadership.

“Potentially all those people did die in vain if we don’t have senior leaders who own up and raise their hand and say, ‘We did not do this well in the end,’” he says in the video, seated in an office in front of a helmet and flak jacket. “Without that, we just keep repeating the same mistakes. It’s this amalgamation of an economic/corporate/political/higher military ranks not holding up their end of the bargain.”

The video, which has been shared 47,000 times on Facebook, took particular issue with how the US government has handled its exit from Afghanistan, set to be complete on 31 August.

“I’m not saying we’ve got to be in Afghanistan forever,” Mr Scheller adds in the video. “But I am saying: Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say, ‘Hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic air base, before we evacuate everyone?’”

Less than a day later, the colonel was relieved of command, and his 17 years of service mean he may not qualify for the full, lifelong US Marines pension awarded to servicemembers after 20 years.

The Corps decided to relieve the colonel, Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Jim Stenger told The Washington Post, because of a “loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command.”

“This is obviously an emotional time for a lot of Marines, and we encourage anyone struggling right now to seek counseling or talk to a fellow Marine,” Mr Stenger said. “There is a forum in which Marine leaders can address their disagreements with the chain of command, but it’s not social media.”

Mr Scheller wrote in a later post he didn’t fault the service branch for removing him, saying the Marines were “doing exactly what I would do … if I were in their shoes.”

“America has many issues … but it’s my home. … When my Marine Corps career comes to an end, I look forward to a new beginning,” he added. “My life’s purpose is to make America the most lethal and effective foreign diplomacy instrument. While my days of hand-to-hand violence may be ending … I see new light on the horizon.”

Commenters who saw the video also expressed their support.

“You threw it on the line and if big government takes it away. Many service members / veterans are willing to give,” one Facebook user wrote. “We have your back financially and any other way.”

Veterans have expressed their dismay about the end to the US war in Afghanistan, the country’s longest modern conflict, which has ended chaotically, with few gains to show.

“It’s pain — pain I thought I had gotten used to,” Javier Mackey, a retired Army special forces soldier who deployed six times in the country, told the New York times. “I sacrificed a lot, I saw death every year. And the guys I served with, we knew it would probably come to an end like this. But to see it end in chaos, it makes us angry. After everything we gave, I just wish there had been a way to leave with honor.”

Others faulted the US for failing to evacuate all of the numerous Afghans who assisted American military forces in the country, and now could face violent retribution from the Taliban.

"It’s already scary enough where daily I’m messaging both of these individuals and sometimes they take a little long to respond and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, are they still there? Are they still alive?’" Ed McCormick, a US army veteran, told Business Insider on Thursday of two Afghan interpreters he’s trying to help. "Eventually they respond, but there’s a good chance that at some point they’re not going to, and you can only assume the worst has happened."

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