by Mark Perry
October 30, 2014
President Obama’s point man in the fight against the Islamic State faces a ruthless foe. But his detractors at home — even in the Pentagon — may be his biggest enemy.
When U.S. President Barack Obama appointed retired Marine Gen. John Allen to serve as his special envoy to the global coalition against the Islamic State, the news was greeted with applause from the jihadi group’s greatest enemies. Kurdish and Iraqi Sunni leaders welcomed the appointment, with good reason — these same leaders had requested that Allen, widely known as one of Obama’s favorite generals, be appointed to the position.
But not everyone was pleased, especially at the Pentagon, where top generals had deep misgivings over how Obama had chosen to manage the campaign against the Islamic State.
Among the dissenters was the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Lloyd Austin, who took a dim view of Allen’s role. Austin complained to aides that Allen would report directly to the president — bypassing both himself and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Austin believed that Allen’s appointment would lead to confusion about who was really leading the effort, a senior U.S. officer who serves with Austin told me several days after the appointment. “Why the hell do we need a special envoy — isn’t that what [Secretary of State] John Kerry’s for?” this senior officer asked.
Austin’s private doubts echoed the deep skepticism among a host of serving and retired officers who served in the region, this same senior officer said. Included in this group was former U.S. Central Command (Centcom) chief Anthony Zinni, who issued a harsh public condemnation of the appointment on the day that it was made public. “John Allen is a great guy,” Zinni told a reporter on Sept. 12, “but does it take a retired general to coordinate a coalition? What is Centcom, chopped liver?… Who is really leading here — that is my question.”……