February 24th, 2011
12:25 PM ET

Rolling Stone: Army manipulated visiting VIPs in Afghanistan

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is ordering an investigation into a scathing Rolling Stone magazine report that says the Army ordered soldiers trained in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting lawmakers to secure more troops and funding for the war, the military said Thursday.

A lieutenant colonel told the magazine that a military team at Afghanistan's Camp Eggers was ordered by Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops, to perform psychological operations on visiting VIPs over a four-month period last year.

When the team devoted to what is known as information operations refused on grounds that it was illegal, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation, the magazine said.

"My job in psy-ops is to play with people's heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave," Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the head of the "information operations" unit, told Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings, who also wrote an article last year that led to the dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

"I'm prohibited from doing that to our own people," he said. "When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you're crossing a line."

Holmes said he was reprimanded for refusing to carry out orders.

The military statement Thursday said Petraeus would order a probe but said that "it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time."

The report said that among those singled out in the campaign included Sens. John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Reed, Al Franken and Carl Levin and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services, said he was "confident the chain of command will review any allegation that information operations have been improperly used in Afghanistan."

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