Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 4 October 2015

US colonel fired for his sniping will not go quietly

By Kim Sengupta

Published 10/09/2010

A senior officer in General David Petraeus's support staff, who was fired for publicly criticising the US military's "PowerPoint culture", has issued a fresh broadside against what he says is a bloated, ineffective bureaucracy at America's headquarters in Afghanistan.

Colonel Lawrence Sellin was fired from his role after he wrote a column attacking the system for using relentless slide-show presentations to "cognitively challenged" generals instead of formulating coherent policy.

Col Sellin, a 61-year-old army reservist, said he had no regrets about his action and that others at the main base of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul congratulated him for speaking out. "I am not sorry at all. I think there are a lot of people who feel this way even on Petraeus's own staff," he told Army Times. "Colonels came up to me and shook hands and said 'you were right'."

He said the article was an attempt to challenge the conduct of the war after he grew disillusioned with his role. "I had added no value to the war effort," he said. He had emailed his superiors suggesting ways to improve the headquarters' efficiency, but to no avail.

Soon afterwards Col Sellin, who had also served in Iraq, wrote an article for the United Press International agency, saying: "For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information."

Nato officials in Kabul dispute the account given by Col Sellin, who had been in Afghanistan for less than two months. Col Hans Bush, a spokesman in Kabul, said: " His comments do not reflect the reality of the work done every day. His duty position and responsibilities did not offer him the situational awareness needed to validate his postings to the media." The US Army stated that Col Sellin had broken rules governing the making of public statements.

Shortly before the article came out, Col Sellin says in the Army Times interview, a supervisor told him it was clear he was unhappy and that he should "go home". His second article "sealed [his] fate".

Col Sellin is returning to his family in Finland, where he is an international defence contractor. "Throughout my career I have walked a fine line between good taste and unemployment," he said.

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