On MSNBC Live, Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey stated: "By the way, another question to be decided is, What are we doing in Afghanistan? Are we there to build an Afghan security force with our NATO allies and then withdraw, or are we there to fight a counterinsurgency battle in this gigantic country?" But at no point during the segment was it disclosed that McCaffrey is a member of the board of directors of DynCorp International, a company under contract to train part of the Afghan National Security Force.
Loading the player ...
On the February 25 edition of MSNBC Live, discussing President Obama's reported decision to redeploy combat troops from Iraq within 19 months, NBC News military analyst and retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey stated: "By the way, another question to be decided is, What are we doing in Afghanistan? Are we there to build an Afghan security force with our NATO allies and then withdraw, or are we there to fight a counterinsurgency battle in this gigantic country?" But at no point during the segment did either McCaffrey or anchor Norah O'Donnell disclose that McCaffrey is a member of the board of directors of DynCorp International -- a company under contract to train part of the Afghan National Security Force.
An August 5, 2008, DynCorp press release reported that the company had been awarded an 18-month, $317.4 million contract with the State Department to "provide at least 580 civilian police advisors to advise, train, and mentor the Afghanistan National Police and the Ministry of Interior." During a November 25, 2008, press briefing, Maj. Gen. Robert Cone stated: "My command trains, equips, and fields the Afghan National Security Force, and this includes both the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police."
MSNBC is aware of McCaffrey's ties to DynCorp -- indeed, McCaffrey's bio on MSNBC's website reports that he "has been elected to: the Board of Directors of DynCorp International." Additionally, in an April 20, 2008, New York Times article, investigative reporter David Barstow detailed the connections between media military analysts and the Pentagon and defense industries, and named McCaffrey as one of numerous military analysts who "have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air." Barstow reported that McCaffrey had his "own consulting firm" and "sat on the boards of major military contractors." (Following the Times' article, Media Matters for America conducted a review of appearances between January 2002 and May 2008 by military analysts named in the article, including McCaffrey, and identified more than 600 appearances by McCaffrey on NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC.)
In a November 29, 2008, follow-up article, Barstow wrote that McCaffrey "has immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism" and highlighted a June 28, 2005, NBC News special report anchored by Williams in which McCaffrey said that "the Iraqi security forces are real," but did not disclose his ties to DynCorp -- the company that trained those forces -- or to Veritas Capital, DynCorp's parent company. According to Barstow, McCaffrey served on DynCorp's board of directors at the time and "owned special stock that allowed him to share in DynCorp's profits, up 87 percent that year largely because of the Iraq war." Forbes.com has previously reported that McCaffrey joined DynCorp's board in 2005. Barstow further reported that McCaffrey has "earned at least $500,000" for his work on the "advisory council" of Veritas Capital.
According to a June 23, 2008, company press release, DynCorp has been a "major part of the CIVPOL [International Civilian Police] mission in Iraq since 2003" and has held the contract for the "overall Civilian Advisor Support work" in Iraq since 2004.
Despite McCaffrey's repeated failure to disclose his ties to military contractors, as exemplified by his appearance on that June 2005 NBC News special report, in which he said that Iraqi security forces (trained by a company whose board McCaffrey serves on) were making progress, NBC defended its actions and those of McCaffrey to Barstow. Barstow reported:
The president of NBC News, Steve Capus, said in an interview that General McCaffrey was a man of honor and achievement who would never let business obligations color his analysis for NBC. He described General McCaffrey as an "independent voice" who had courageously challenged Mr. [Donald] Rumsfeld, adding, "There's no open microphone that begins with the Pentagon and ends with him going out over our airwaves."
General McCaffrey is not required to abide by NBC's formal conflict-of-interest rules, Mr. Capus said, because he is a consultant, not a news employee. Nor is he required to disclose his business interests periodically. But Mr. Capus said that the network had conversations with its military analysts about the need to avoid even the appearance of a conflict, and that General McCaffrey had been "incredibly forthcoming" about his ties to military contractors.
Media Matters previously documented that during a November 27, 2008, report discussing efforts to "turn around what some military analysts are calling an eight-year stalemate," NBC's Nightly News aired a clip of McCaffrey saying, "The answer is the Afghan security forces, with 40 NATO and allied present supporting elements, but not the U.S. fighting the significant counterinsurgency battle" in Afghanistan, but did not disclose his ties to Dyncorp.
From the 3 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on February 25:
O'DONNELL: And a big headline: The president is expected to announce a major drawdown in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. NBC News has learned that more than half of the American troops there will be pulled out within 19 months, leaving perhaps around 50,000 still in the war zone. MSNBC analyst and retired U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey is here.
General, this is a little bit longer than what the president said during the campaign. He said 16 months, now it's going to be 19 months. Some people say, "So it's three months -- whatever." But that he's going to leave 50,000 troops in Iraq. Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] saying here on MSNBC that she doesn't see what the justification is for that amount. What's your take on that?
McCAFFREY: Well, I think it was a good decision. Instead of conditions-based withdrawal, the president is now saying we've got a date certain. And he's also saying we're going to take the combat troops out, we're going to get out of the urban areas, we're going to turn it over to Iraqi security forces. This is all good news. Now, the residual force -- there's an argument that says if you don't leave a substantial air-power presence, intelligence, counterterrorism operations, that you risk having it unravel on you. And that's the decision that the commander in chief had to make. So my guess is it's the right thing.
O'DONNELL: But if he says, "I'm going to withdraw all combat forces," all 50,000 of those left are noncombat forces? Could that be the case?
McCAFFREY: Well, it would leave me with high level of anxiety if I thought there were no protection combat brigades in that force.
McCAFFREY: So my assumption is what you're going to see is a lot of these combat brigades will be redesigned as training and support outfits but will still have a considerable capability to defend themselves. I hope that's the case.
O'DONNELL: And then how many of these forces that are not going to Iraq are going to be sent to Afghanistan?
McCAFFREY: Well, of course, there's a balancing act here. The Army's got 44 brigades. If you've got 14 of them in Iraq and you're trying to build up to four or five or six in Afghanistan, at some point, it won't work. So we've got a lot of these combat troops on their third, fourth, or fifth combat deployments. We've got to draw down in Iraq if the policy is to substantially reinforce General Dave McKiernan in Afghanistan.
By the way, another question to be decided is, what are we doing in Afghanistan? Are we there to build an Afghan security force with our NATO allies and then withdraw, or are we there to fight a counterinsurgency battle in this gigantic country?
O'DONNELL: And that review is under way, and the president is waiting for it. General --
O'DONNELL: -- Barry McCaffrey, great to see you. Thank you so much for joining us.
McCAFFREY: Good to be with you.