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U.S. military to examine alleged misuse of ‘psy-ops’ in Afghanistan

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Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, called Thursday for an investigation into allegations that an Army general ordered military personnel trained in psychological operations to manipulate visiting U.S. lawmakers into providing additional funding and support.

Rolling Stone magazine reported online that Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the commander of the American mission to train Afghan security forces, put pressure on “psy-op” soldiers, in violation of federal law, “to target visiting senators and other VIPs,” including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) as well as Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Writer Michael Hastings, whose June 2010 profile of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal led to the general’s removal as the senior military commander in Afghanistan, cites Lt. Col. Michael Holmes, leader of an information operations unit at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan, as saying that Caldwell’s chief of staff asked him how the unit “could secretly manipulate the U.S. lawmakers without their knowledge.”

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“How do we get these guys to give us more people?” the magazine quotes the Caldwell staff member as saying. “What do I have to plant inside their heads?”

Hastings’ article is titled “Another Runaway General,” an allusion to his piece on McChrystal, in which the general’s staff frequently derided top civilian leaders, including then-special envoy Richard C. Holbrooke and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry. That article prompted an inquiry that led President Obama to swiftly remove the Army general from his post.

Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said the investigation into Rolling Stone’s latest findings would examine “what actions took place and if any of them were inappropriate or illegal.”

Lapan said he did not know who would be appointed to lead the inquiry.

One of the senators purportedly targeted by Caldwell’s operation, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), issued a statement Thursday saying he was “confident that the chain of command will review any allegation that information operations have been improperly used in Afghanistan.”

“I have strongly and repeatedly advocated for building up Afghan military capability because I believe only the Afghans can truly secure their nation’s future. I have never needed any convincing on this point,” Levin wrote.

michael.memoli@latimes.com


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