Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Who is Gabi Ashkenazi?

From Ynet ....

(Photo: Shalom Bar Tal)

Man who headed Golani brigade between 1986-1988 expected to be appointed to top post in IDF; Ashkenazi, 53, of Khagour, fought in Yom Kippur War

The frontrunner in the race to replace Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz as the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff was born six years after the establishment of the State of Israel, in Khagour in the Sharon area, north of Rosh Ayin.
The man he is set to replace, also calls Khagour home.

....Beyond being renowned for his extensive experience as a ground commander, Ashkenazi is a graduate of both the Tel Aviv Junior Command Preparatory School and the US Marines Training Command School.

The 53-year-old holds a BA in Political Science and is a father of two.
Ashkenazi served most of his military career in the Northern Command but he fought with Southern Command soldiers in his early days.

In 1972, he joined the Golani Brigade and fought in the Yom Kippur war a year later.
He also took part in Entebbe operation and was injured in the Litani operation in Lebanon.

By 1980, he was commanding a Golani battalion and during the first Lebanon war he was the Deputy Commander of the Golani Brigade.

He became popular among combat soldiers during his tenure as Golani commander between 1986 and 1988, after which he served as Northern Command Intelligence Chief.

In the early nineties he was appointed as commander of the northern command armored brigade. From 1992 to 1994 he headed civil the IDF's administration operations in southern Lebanon and worked closely with South Lebanon Army officers.

He then served for four years as the Head of Operations at the General Staff. In the summer of 1998 he was appointed as Northern Command Chief.

....In 2002 he was appointed as Deputy Chief of Staff and resigned two years later when he lost to Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz who was former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon 's choice for chief of staff.

He officially retired from the IDF in May 2005, and was appointed as the Director-General of the Ministry of Defense.

Ashkenazi was not directly involved in the recent war in Lebanon. He earned the reputation of being an experience general, “Mr. Lebanon,” one who knows the area where the IDF fights.

He progressed within the army ranks, and finally served as Defense Minister Amir Peretz’s right hand man, in the position of director-general of the Defense Ministry – where he was much more proficient than his boss.....

...and also from Ynet 23/1/07, by Ron Ben-Yishai...

Ashkenazi's real test - Patience, perseverance pay off, but new army chief now has to deliver

... Ashkenazi holds a clear advantage over the other candidates not only because he was not directly involved in the flawed management of the fighting in Lebanon, but rather, because he already proved that he can plan and command large-scale combat. This is something no other candidate can boast. Another advantage: He already proved that he knows how to restrain himself in the face of frustration and act cooly in any situation.

Ashkenazi displayed those qualities as the northern command chief in 2000. At the time he thought, and even said so to Prime Minister Barak, that declaring a date for a unilateral withdrawal from the South Lebanon Security Zone was a mistake. He even predicted the South Lebanon Army's collapse before the planned date.

However, when his doubts were rejected by the politicians, he led the northern command and other IDF branches into an intensive, detailed, and rapid process of planning and preparation for withdrawal completed months before the target date.

Ashkenazi also made the utmost efforts in a bid to prevent the South Lebanon Army's early collapse and while doing so displayed significant emotional intelligence. Yet once the SLA did collapse and the withdrawal battle had to be managed under difficult circumstances and under fire, the command units in the Security Zone were well prepared and under Ashkenazi's cool guidance departed from Lebanon without sustaining any losses.

Following the Lebanon withdrawal, Ashkenazi was able to redeploy on the border, exactly in accordance with the instructions handed down by Army Chief Mofaz and Prime Minister Barak.

The only stain that tainted his tenure as the northern command chief was the failure that allowed Hizbullah to kidnap three IDF soldiers in the Mount Dov area several months after the withdrawal. However, a commission of inquiry headed by Major General (Res.) Yossi Peled cleared him of direct responsibility for this failure.

Notably, at the time these events were taking place, Ashkenazi maintained his silence. He concentrated on doing and allowed others to talk – even though he had much criticism and disagreed with Barak's decisions and his strategic perceptions.

Even when Sharon decided to pick Dan Halutz over him as chief of staff, Ashkenazi did not publicly express his frustration and also did not head into the private sector. The military and Israel's security were always, and remained, his first love. The patience and perseverance he showed paid off.

Ashkenazi's missions
Now comes the test. The first mission, in order of priority, faced by Ashkenazi is to restore the IDF's, and particularly the ground forces', ability to function effectively in any combat type or scenario. To that end, he will have to annul some of the organizational changes introduced by Halutz.

Ashkenazi will have to ensure the general staff is given back the functions that would allow it to directly-manage combat and to again institutionalize a clear and hierarchical chain of command that enables the chief of staff and deputy army chief to decide, every day, the strategic and tactical combat objectives and earmark resources and forces, while command chiefs and regiment commanders execute the plans.

Ashkenazi will likely also have to make some personnel changes in the general staff in a manner that would improve the overall functioning of the intelligence, logistics, and Navy arms in their role of supporting the ground and air forces.

The second mission in order of priority is the implementation of the work plan prepared by the general staff under the direction of Halutz and Kaplinsky based on the Lebanon War's lessons.

This 2007 work plan is a masterpiece considering the budgetary limitations. If it is implemented properly, it would restore the regular and reserve ground forces' basic combat capabilities under scenarios that have been neglected, while also reviving some forgotten combat values.

The third mission is to prepare the IDF to cope with the Iranian nuclear threat and with a guerilla strategy that makes use of rockets and sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

The fourth mission is to convince Israeli politicians, media, and society to allow the IDF to quietly work on fixing itself. Ashkenazi must make it clear to Israeli society that the sensitivity it shows to military casualties leads to mistakes on the battlefield that exact a heavy human toll.

He must make clear to the parents of soldiers, reserve soldiers' groups, and bereaved families that their deep involvement in what goes on in the military and the pressures they exert on commanders damage their sons and friends more than they benefit them.

All of the above constitutes an immense mission. If Ashkenazi delivers, only then would we be able to confidently say that the failure to appoint him as chief of staff about a year and a half ago was a historic injustice done to him, and also to us.

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