USAID running a military operation: What could possibly go wrong?

If Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was telling the truth at a House committee hearing yesterday that USAID is actually in charge of the 3,000 troops being sent to Liberia to deal (somehow) with ebola, then President Obama should be impeached for gross mishandling of the U.S. military, not necessarily in misusing military resources—for we could have, depending on what the actual mission is, a legitimate debate about whether ebola is a grave risk to the nation’s security—but in putting soldiers’ lives and limbs at risk under the direction of diplomats and bureaucrats.

Perhaps Lindborg was confusing or exaggerating her agency’s role, or relishing the chance to play Keystone Kop (and getting to use phrases like “command and control” in a Congressional hearing).  It can’t really be the case that a large-scale oversees military operation is being managed by the State Department?

If it is true, then we have a helpful preview of how the agency is likely to manage the mission.  Lindborg couldn’t answer basic questions about the composition of the force, timelines, or the equipment and training that they would be provided.  Hard to imagine (though not impossible these days) that an equivalent official in the Defense Department would be so cavalier in testifying before Congress about the parameters of a military deployment in a real war zone.


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