White House photo by Pete Souza
The Runaway General
By Michael Hastings
Rolling Stone, June 22, 2010
Edited by Andy Ross
General Stanley McChrystal is using Afghanistan as a laboratory for
counterinsurgency. COIN involves deploying huge numbers of ground troops to
not only destroy the enemy but to live among the civilian population and
slowly rebuild their government.
McChrystal's staff is a handpicked
collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators, and
outright maniacs who call themselves as Team America. After arriving in
Kabul last summer, Team America set about changing the culture of the
NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (they say ISAF is short for
"I Suck at Fighting").
McChrystal's new marching orders have caused
an intense backlash among his own troops. Being told to hold their fire,
soldiers complain, puts them in greater danger. "Bottom line?" says X. "I
would love to kick McChrystal in the nuts. His rules of engagement put
soldiers' lives in even greater danger. Every real soldier will tell you the
One soldier shows me the list of new regulations the
platoon was given. "Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain
that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force," the
laminated card reads. "Does that make any fucking sense?" asks Y. "We should
just drop a fucking bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself: What are
we doing here?"
The rules handed out here are not what McChrystal
intended, but knowing that does nothing to lessen the anger of troops on the
ground. "Fuck, when I came over here and heard that McChrystal was in
charge, I thought we would get our fucking gun on," says Z. "But we're
fucking losing this thing."
During the question-and-answer period,
the soldiers complain about not being allowed to
use lethal force, about watching insurgents they detain be freed for lack of
A soldier: "You say we've stopped the momentum of the insurgency. I
don't believe that's true in this area. The more we pull back, the more we
restrain ourselves, the stronger it's getting."
McChrystal: "You have
to show strength here, you have to use fire. What I'm telling you is, fire
costs you. What do you want to do? You want to wipe the population out here
and resettle it?"
When it comes to Afghanistan, history is not on
McChrystal's side. The only foreign invader to have any success here was
Genghis Khan. The COIN doctrine draws inspiration from Western military
embarrassments like the American war in Vietnam. McChrystal acknowledges
that COIN campaigns are messy, expensive, and easy to lose.
Afghan war will do little to shut down Al Qaeda, which has shifted its
operations to Pakistan. Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools,
roads, mosques and water-treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying
to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist
churches in Little Rock. "It's all very cynical, politically," says Marc
Sageman, a former CIA case officer.
"The entire COIN strategy is a
fraud perpetuated on the American people," says Douglas Macgregor, a retired
colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with
McChrystal. "The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to
reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense."
counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a perpetual war.
Day of Reckoning
The Daily Beast, June 23, 2010
Edited by Andy Ross
Stanley McChrystal deserves to be reprimanded for letting a reporter make
him and his staff look like arrogant jerks. What matters is what McChrystal
believes about Afghanistan. That's why he should lose his job.
McChrystal, with the backing of David Petraeus and the rest of the top
military brass, wants America to make an unlimited commitment to the Afghan
war. Counterinsurgency requires an unlimited amount of money and time.
Obama believes that saving Afghanistan could bankrupt the United States.
It's a struggle about whether America is going to adjust to the new limits
on its power or pretend that they don't exist.
Counterinsurgency is a
long, messy business, especially when the president whose country you're
trying to save is indifferent, if not hostile, to the effort. In all
likelihood, when the deadline for troop withdrawal arrives a year from now,
Obama will be forced to choose between something that looks like an
unlimited commitment and something that looks like defeat.
should use McChrystal's transgression to install a general who will publicly
and unambiguously declare that America's days in Afghanistan are numbered.
He should use this moment to take control of his foreign policy.
General Stanley McChrystal has given President Obama the opening he needs.
The breakdown of discipline at the highest levels of U.S. military command
is the latest, and perhaps most potent, sign that the American adventure in
Afghanistan is already lost. McChrystal knew just what he was doing in
allowing a Rolling Stone writer in on the insubordinate spilling of the
bile. That brazen show is what requires Obama to act.
should treat McChrystal's gaffe like a surprisingly unlocked prison gate and
blow out of the prison of America's misbegotten Afghanistan war, out of the
dungeon of Pentagon dominance of U.S. policy. The time for paradigm shift is
here, and the rogue general can be its sponsor.
Obama's mistake, but McChrystal has been the instrument of that mistake. Now
he can be the instrument of its correction. Obama can seize the initiative
and hit the restart that leads to prompt U.S. withdrawal. Renounce the
illusion of victory, accept the shame of stalemate, put the Pentagon on
notice. And fire the bastard.
Leslie H. Gelb
Here's the real story behind the anti-Obama remarks by General Stanley
McChrystal and his staff in Rolling Stone. The U.S. military, officers, and
enlisted ranks don't like and don't trust Democrats and liberals. The bad
feelings are mainly about values, style, and constancy more than policy.
There was a similar trauma with the military less than two years ago
when President Obama fired General David McKiernan, then U.S./NATO commander
for Afghanistan, for not being sufficiently enthusiastic about conducting a
counterinsurgency strategy against the Taliban. McChrystal was selected as
his replacement. General David Petraeus, the overall regional commander,
strongly endorsed both a counterterrorism strategy and McChrystal.
The military feel that Republicans are much more likely to stay the course
than Democrats. Many Democrats supported George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq,
only to split off soon thereafter. And as far as the military is concerned,
they smell the same sense of retreat coming from the Obama White House over
I talk often to military officers about this. They
aren't having the same kind of talks with the White House. There's a lot of
evidence that the war is going badly. I don't want to see another change of
command in Afghanistan. Let the general's mistake be the occasion for a
serious conversation between the White House and the Pentagon brass on
In Kabul, the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal is a looming
catastrophe. Media mogul Saad Mohseni, the head of Afghanistan's biggest
broadcast outlet, Moby Group, said: "I think it will be an extraordinary
loss of opportunity for Afghanistan. He is very close to President Karzai,
which no one else in Washington is. To see McChrystal go is to lose ground
and have to restart the whole effort from scratch."
close rapport with Hamid Karzai, the United States' deeply flawed ally in
the battle against the Taliban and al Qaeda, is unique among American
officials. McChrystal had to cancel a scheduled interview with Moby TV to
fly to Washington. Mohseni: "This is massive news here today. The U.S.
policy in Afghanistan is McChrystal's policy. Anybody who takes his place is
going to have to enact that policy."
The U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has a way
with words. In the current issue of Rolling Stone, McChrystal and his
buddies accused the civilian leadership of screwing up Afghan policy.
McChrystal has issued an "apology for poor judgment" but no retraction, no
claim of being misquoted or having his derogatory comments taken out of
Obama must end the policy divisions within his
administration and the insubordination of military leadership on the ground.
These efforts must start with a decisive heave-ho of General McChrystal.
Anything less will reinforce the emerging calculation that Obama is a wuss.
AR Now we know why McChrystal
couldn't sleep more than four hours a night, ran seven miles every morning,
and ate only once a day. Steeling himself for Judgment Day.
Seriously, he has a big message for Obama. Afghanistan is a hopeless war. The United States could
waste a trillion
dollars propping up a medieval mess for nothing. Better exit now.
the effort is hopeless. The U.S./NATO troops are fighting with their hands
tied. They need robust rules of engagement — or replacement by Peace Corps
Obama must decide: either fight to win and accept a
higher kill rate or pull out completely and let the U.S. Air Force sterilize
the bad patches later.
Crisis Management 101
In less than 48 hours, Obama had to reassess his Afghanistan strategy, its
military leader, and the entire civilian-military relationship. It was a
test of Obama's leadership skills. He had to push back against the
dismissive and derisive attitude shown by McChrystal and his men toward the
civilian command. At the same time, he had to be careful not to sap military
morale or undermine the policy that he still supports in Afghanistan. He
Special forces experience may account for McChrystal's approach to political
power. More often than not, the special forces mission overrides all else.
McChrystal saw his counter-insurgency campaign through this prism and failed
to give sufficient recognition to the wider political dimensions. Some
senior officers fail to grasp the reality that military power is only part
of a much wider strategy.
Obama Endorses Petraeus Strategy
Obama clarified that July 2011 means what General Petraeus told the Senate
he supports: not a race for the exits, but a conditions-based, open-ended
transition. If that still sounds unclear, it's because the policy itself is
unclear. But 2012 will probably look much like right now, in terms of troop
levels and U.S. troops fighting. This is Obama intensifying his strategy.
Petraeus Takes Control
The New York Times
Every aspect of the war in Afghanistan is going badly. To turn the tide,
General Petraeus will almost certainly continue the counterinsurgency
strategy he devised with General McChrystal. Perhaps his toughest challenge
will be to unify a fractious team of senior officials in the Obama
administration who hold sharply differing views of the war.
Petraeus: Strategic Patience
Robert Gates, the Pentagon chief, said: "General Petraeus will have the
flexibility to look at the campaign plan and the approach and all manner of
things when he gets to Afghanistan".
A British official who also
worked with General Petraeus said: "McChrystal imposed courageous restraint
as a mantra whereas the big theme of General Petraeus was strategic patience."
Rolling Stone writer thought McChrystal unfireable
The Times, June 25, 2010
In a candid interview with The Times, the journalist Michael Hastings said
he was simply doing his job as a magazine reporter and rebutted suggestions
that there was anything underhand about the methods he employed. The
freelance reporter insists he did not set out to have General McChrystal
fired. "It was to get people to say, hey, what's going on in Afghanistan?"
NATO officials admit that the profile brought together an irrefutable
weight of anecdotal evidence about the fractured relationships that
surrounded General McChrystal's command. It also incorporated a series of
revelations about the mission's prospects of success. But no one at NATO,
the Pentagon, or even the White House has questioned the truth of the
Haqqani Smells Victory
By Mushtaq Yusufzai
Daily Beast, June 25, 2010
Senior Afghan Taliban commander Sirajuddin Haqqani said he and his men had
been informed as soon as the story about McChrystal broke. When Haqqani
heard about the disparaging comments that McChrystal had made, he knew that
the American commander in Afghanistan would get fired.
pleased with what he saw as disarray among the team of American top military
brass and diplomats in Afghanistan, and said that it proved that the Afghan
war had frustrated and divided the Obama administration and the military
Haqqani has a $5 million bounty on his head. He is the
eldest son of veteran Afghan Taliban leader, Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani,
leader of the Haqqani network, and is believed to have organized several
devastating attacks on U.S. and NATO forces. He said that McChrystal's
comments had been a kind of public hara-kiri — the defeated military
commander speaking the truth in public so that he would be relieved of duty.
Haqqani Network Pakistani Asset
The New York Times, June 25, 2010
Pakistan is exploiting the U.S. troubles in Afghanistan to drive home a
political settlement with Afghanistan that would undermine U.S. interests.
The dismissal of General McChrystal will almost certainly embolden the
Pakistanis in their plan as they detect increasing American uncertainty. The
Pakistani Army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, preferred General
McChrystal to his successor, General David Petraeus.
presenting itself as the new partner for Afghanistan to President
Hamid Karzai. Pakistani officials say they
can deliver the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ally of Al Qaeda who runs
part of the insurgency in Afghanistan, into a power-sharing arrangement.
Washington has watched General Kayani shuttle between Islamabad and
Kabul, telling Mr. Karzai that they agree with his assessment that the
United States cannot win in Afghanistan, and that a postwar Afghanistan
should incorporate the Haqqani network, a longtime Pakistani asset.
General McChrystal visited General Kayani in Islamabad 11 times in the
past year, but the Pakistanis have not been forthcoming on details of the
conversations. The United States may find itself cut
out of what amounts to a separate peace between the Afghans and Pakistanis.
The Haqqani network has long been Pakistan's crucial anti-India asset
and has remained virtually untouched by Pakistani forces in their redoubt
inside Pakistan. Pakistan has repeatedly used the Haqqani fighters to hit
Indian and American targets inside Afghanistan.
Pakistan's premier spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, depicted a stark
picture of an American military campaign in Afghanistan "that will not
Pakistanis say they have chosen to open talks with Karzai
because they sensed uncertainty — "a lack of fire in the belly" — within the
Obama administration over the Afghan fight.
The Haqqanis are prepared
to break with Al Qaeda, Pakistani intelligence and military officials said.
But the Haqqani offer to cut links with Al Qaeda may be a tactical move to
thwart military action by the Pakistani Army.
By Fred Kaplan
Slate, June 24, 2010
The fundamental challenge is Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Counterinsurgency wars are fought by, with, through, and on behalf of the
host country's national government. The idea is to provide security, so the
government can bring its people basic services. If the government is
incompetent, corrupt, or widely viewed by the people as illegitimate, then a
counterinsurgency campaign is futile.
The U.S. military is doing its
part; the Afghan government isn't.
In March, General McChrystal moved
15,000 Marines into Marja, a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan,
with the goal of killing or sweeping out the insurgents, then moving in what
he called "government in a box." But the Taliban kept coming back. And the
government-in-a-box never arrived. It never existed in the first place.
A U.S. adviser in Afghanistan: "Karzai has to be switched out or have a
By Bob Herbert
The New York Times, June 25, 2010
President Obama can be applauded for dispatching Stanley McChrystal, but we
are still left with a disaster of a war in Afghanistan that cannot be won.
Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt places on the planet and the
epicenter of global opium production. Our ostensible ally, President Hamid
Karzai, is convinced that the U.S. cannot prevail in the war and is in hot
pursuit of his own deal with the enemy Taliban. For us to even consider
several more years of fighting and dying in Afghanistan is demented.
Those who are so fascinated with counterinsurgency seem to have lost sight
of a fundamental aspect of warfare: You
go to war to crush the enemy. The counterinsurgency crowd doesn't want to
whack the enemy too hard because of a fear that too many civilian casualties
will undermine the "hearts and minds" strategy.
There is no victory
to be had in Afghanistan, only grief.
AR My Afpak solution:
Pull out the troops, bomb the crazies.
Genghis Khan did something right
in a life filled with blood and gore