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‘The Runaway General’ – The Full Text

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The Runaway General

Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House

By Michael Hastings

July 22, 2010

‘How’d I get screwed into going to this dinner?” demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It’s a Thursday night in mid-April, and the commander of all US and NATO forces in Afghanistan is sitting in a four-star suite at the Hôtel Westminster in Paris. He’s in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies – to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies. Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany’s president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.

“The dinner comes with the position, sir,” says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn. McChrystal turns sharply in his chair. “Hey, Charlie,” he asks, “does this come with the position?” McChrystal gives him the middle finger. The general stands and looks around the suite that his traveling staff of 10 has converted into a full-scale operations center. The tables are crowded with silver Panasonic Toughbooks, and blue cables crisscross the hotel’s thick carpet, hooked up to satellite dishes to provide encrypted phone and email communications. Dressed in off the rack civilian casual – blue tie, button-down shirt, dress slacks – McChrystal is way out of his comfort zone. Paris, as one of his advisers says, is the “most anti-McChrystal city you can imagine. ”

The general hates fancy restaurants, rejecting any place with candles on the tables as too “Gucci.” He prefers Bud Light Lime (his favorite beer) to Bordeaux, Talladega Nights (his favorite movie) to Jean-Luc Godard. Besides, the public eye has never been a place where McChrystal felt comfortable: Before President Obama put him in charge of the war in Afghanistan, he spent five years running the Pentagon’s most secretive black ops. “What’s the update on the Kandahar bombing?” McChrystal asks Flynn. The city has been rocked by two massive car bombs in the past day alone, calling into question the general’s assurances that he can wrest it from the Taliban.

Writer Michael Hastings has reported from Iraq and Afghanistan for two years. This is his first story for RS. “We have two KIAs, but that hasn’t been confirmed,” Flynn says. McChrystal takes a final look around the suite. At 55, he is gaunt and lean, not unlike an older version of Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn. His slate blue eyes have the unsettling ability to drill down when they lock on you. If you’ve fucked up or disappointed him, they can destroy your soul without the need for him to raise his voice. “I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner,” McChrystal says. He pauses a beat. “Unfortunately,” he adds, “no one in this room could do it. ”With that, he’s out the door. “Who’s he going to dinner with?” I ask one of his aides. “Some French minister,” the aide tells me. “It’s fucking gay.”

The next morning, McChrystal and his team gather to prepare for a speech he is giving at the École Militaire, a French military academy. The general prides himself on being sharper and ballsier than anyone else, but his brashness comes with a price: Although McChrystal has been in charge of the war for only a year, in that short time he has managed to piss off almost everyone with a stake in the conflict. Last fall, during the question and answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as “shortsighted,” saying it would lead to a state of “Chaosistan. ” The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile.

Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. “I never know what’s going to pop out until I’m up there, that’s the problem,” he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner. “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”

When Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, he immediately set out to deliver on his most important campaign promise on foreign policy: to refocus the war in Afghanistan on what led us to invade in the first place. “I want the American people to understand,” he announced in March 2009. “We have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.” He ordered another 21,000 troops to Kabul, the largest increase since the war began in 2001. Taking the advice of both the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he also fired Gen. David McKiernan – then the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan – and replaced him with a man he didn’t know and had met only briefly: Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It was the first time a top general had been relieved from duty during wartime in more than 50 years, since Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War.

Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” by the roomful of military brass. Their first one- on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn’t go much better. “It was a 10 minute photo op,” says an adviser to McChrystal. “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”

From the start, McChrystal was determined to place his personal stamp on Afghanistan, to use it as a laboratory for a controversial military strategy known as counterinsurgency. COIN, as the theory is known, is the new gospel of the Pentagon brass, a doctrine that attempts to square the military’s preference for high tech violence with the demands of fighting protracted wars in failed states. COIN calls for sending huge numbers of ground troops to not only destroy the enemy, but to live among the civilian population and slowly rebuild, or build from scratch, another nation’s government – a process that even its staunchest advocates admit requires years, if not decades, to achieve.

The theory essentially rebrands the military, expanding its authority (and its funding) to encompass the diplomatic and political sides of warfare: Think the Green Berets as an armed Peace Corps. In 2006, after Gen. David Petraeus beta-tested the theory during his “surge” in Iraq, it quickly gained a hardcore following of think-tankers, journalists, military officers and civilian officials. Nicknamed “COIN-dinistas” for their cultish zeal, this influential cadre believed the doctrine would be the perfect solution for Afghanistan. All they needed was a general with enough charisma and political savvy to implement it. As McChrystal leaned on Obama to ramp up the war, he did it with the same fearlessness he used to track down terrorists in Iraq: Figure out how your enemy operates, be faster and more ruthless than everybody else, then take the fuckers out.

After arriving in Afghanistan last June, the general conducted his own policy review, ordered up by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The now infamous report was leaked to the press, and its conclusion was dire: If we didn’t send another 40,000 troops – swelling the number of US forces in Afghanistan by nearly half – we were in danger of “mission failure. ” The White House was furious. McChrystal, they felt, was trying to bully Obama, opening him up to charges of being weak on national security unless he did what the general wanted. It was Obama versus the Pentagon, and the Pentagon was determined to kick the president’s ass. Last fall, with his top general calling for more troops, Obama launched a three month review to reevaluate the strategy in Afghanistan. “I found that time painful,” McChrystal tells me in one of several lengthy interviews. “I was selling an unsellable position.”

For the general, it was a crash course in Beltway politics – a battle that pitted him against experienced Washington insiders like Vice President Biden, who argued that a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan would plunge America into a military quagmire without weakening international terrorist networks. “The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people,” says Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counter-insurgency 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.” In the end, however, McChrystal got almost exactly what he wanted.

On December 1st, in a speech at West Point, the president laid out all the reasons why fighting the war in Afghanistan is a bad idea: It’s expensive; we’re in an economic crisis; a decade-long commitment would sap American power; Al Qaeda has shifted its base of operations to Pakistan. Then, without ever using the words “victory” or “win,” Obama announced that he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, almost as many as McChrystal had requested. The president had thrown his weight, however hesitantly, behind the counter-insurgency crowd.

Today, as McChrystal gears up for an offensive in southern Afghanistan, the prospects for any kind of success look bleak. In June, the death toll for US troops passed 1,000, and the number of IEDs has doubled. Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the fifth poorest country on earth has failed to win over the civilian population, whose attitude toward US troops ranges from intensely wary to openly hostile. The biggest military operation of the year – a ferocious offensive that began in February to retake the southern town of Marja – continues to drag on, prompting McChrystal himself to refer to it as a “bleeding ulcer.”

In June, Afghanistan officially outpaced Vietnam as the longest war in American history – and Obama has quietly begun to back away from the deadline he set for withdrawing US troops in July of next year. The president finds himself stuck in something even more insane than a quagmire: a quagmire he knowingly walked into, even though it’s precisely the kind of gigantic, mind-numbing, multigenerational nation-building project he explicitly said he didn’t want. Even those who support McChrystal and his strategy of counterinsurgency know that whatever the general manages to accomplish in Afghanistan, it’s going to look more like Vietnam than Desert Storm. “It’s not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win,” says Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, who serves as chief of operations for McChrystal. “This is going to end in an argument.”

The night after his speech in Paris, McChrystal and his staff head to Kitty O’Shea’s, an Irish pub catering to tourists, around the corner from the hotel. His wife, Annie, has joined him for a rare visit: Since the Iraq War began in 2003, she has seen her husband less than 30 days a year. Though it is his and Annie’s 33rd wedding anniversary, McChrystal has invited his inner circle along for dinner and drinks at the “least Gucci” place his staff could find. His wife isn’t surprised. “He once took me to a Jack in the Box when I was dressed in formalwear,” she says with a laugh. The general’s staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs. There’s a former head of British Special Forces, two Navy Seals, an Afghan Special Forces commando, a lawyer, two fighter pilots and at least two dozen combat veterans and counterinsurgency experts. They jokingly refer to themselves as Team America, taking the name from the South Park-esque send-up of military cluelessness, and they pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority.

After arriving in Kabul last summer, Team America set about changing the culture of the International Security Assistance Force, as the NATO led mission is known. (US soldiers had taken to deriding ISAF as short for “I Suck at Fighting” or “In Sandals and Flip Flops.”) McChrystal banned alcohol on base, kicked out Burger King and other symbols of American excess, expanded the morning briefing to include thousands of officers and refashioned the command center into a Situational Awareness Room, a free-flowing information hub modeled after Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s offices in New York. He also set a manic pace for his staff, becoming legendary for sleeping four hours a night, running seven miles each morning, and eating one meal a day. (In the month I spend around the general, I witness him eating only once. ) It’s a kind of superhuman narrative that has built up around him, a staple in almost every media profile, as if the ability to go without sleep and food translates into the possibility of a man single handedly winning the war.

By midnight at Kitty O’Shea’s, much of Team America is completely shitfaced. Two officers do an Irish jig mixed with steps from a traditional Afghan wedding dance, while McChrystal’s top advisers lock arms and sing a slurred song of their own invention. “Afghanistan!” they bellow. “Afghanistan!” They call it their Afghanistan song. McChrystal steps away from the circle, observing his team. “All these men,” he tells me. “I’d die for them. And they’d die for me. ”The assembled men may look and sound like a bunch of combat veterans letting off steam, but in fact this tight knit group represents the most powerful force shaping US policy in Afghanistan.

While McChrystal and his men are in indisputable command of all military aspects of the war, there is no equivalent position on the diplomatic or political side. Instead, an assortment of administration players compete over the Afghan portfolio: US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, National Security Advisor Jim Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, not to mention 40 or so other coalition ambassadors and a host of talking heads who try to insert themselves into the mess, from John Kerry to John McCain. This diplomatic incoherence has effectively allowed McChrystal’s team to call the shots and hampered efforts to build a stable and credible government in Afghanistan.

“It jeopardizes the mission,” says Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who supports McChrystal. “The military cannot by itself create governance reform. ” Part of the problem is structural: The Defense Department budget exceeds $600 billion a year, while the State Department receives only $50 billion. But part of the problem is personal: In private, Team McChrystal likes to talk shit about many of Obama’s top people on the diplomatic side. One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four star general and veteran of the Cold War, a “clown” who remains “stuck in 1985. ” Politicians like McCain and Kerry, says another aide, “turn up, have a meeting with Karzai, criticize him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it’s not very helpful. ” Only Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystal’s inner circle. “Hillary had Stan’s back during the strategic review,” says an adviser. “She said, ‘If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.’ ”

McChrystal reserves special skepticism for Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating the Taliban. “The Boss says he’s like a wounded animal,” says a member of the general’s team. “Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous. He’s a brilliant guy, but he just comes in, pulls on a lever, whatever he can grasp onto. But this is COIN, and you can’t just have someone yanking on shit. ” At one point on his trip to Paris, McChrystal checks his BlackBerry. “Oh, not another email from Holbrooke,” he groans. “I don’t even want to open it. ” He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket, not bothering to conceal his annoyance. “Make sure you don’t get any of that on your leg,” an aide jokes, referring to the email.

By far the most crucial – and strained – relationship is between McChrystal and Eikenberry, the US ambassador. According to those close to the two men, Eikenberry – a retired three star general who served in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2005 – can’t stand that his former subordinate is now calling the shots. He’s also furious that McChrystal, backed by NATO’s allies, refused to put Eikenberry in the pivotal role of viceroy in Afghanistan, which would have made him the diplomatic equivalent of the general. The job instead went to British Ambassador Mark Sedwill – a move that effectively increased McChrystal’s influence over diplomacy by shutting out a powerful rival. “In reality, that position needs to be filled by an American for it to have weight,” says a US official familiar with the negotiations.

The relationship was further strained in January, when a classified cable that Eikenberry wrote was leaked to The New York Times. The cable was as scathing as it was prescient. The ambassador offered a brutal critique of McChrystal’s strategy, dismissed President Hamid Karzai as “not an adequate strategic partner,” and cast doubt on whether the counter-insurgency plan would be “sufficient” to deal with Al Qaeda. “We will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves,” Eikenberry warned, “short of allowing the country to descend again into lawlessness and chaos.” McChrystal and his team were blindsided by the cable. “I like Karl, I’ve known him for years, but they’d never said anything like that to us before,” says McChrystal, who adds that he felt “betrayed” by the leak. “Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.’ ”

The most striking example of McChrystal’s usurpation of diplomatic policy is his handling of Karzai. It is McChrystal, not diplomats like Eikenberry or Holbrooke, who enjoys the best relationship with the man America is relying on to lead Afghanistan. The doctrine of counter-insurgency requires a credible government, and since Karzai is not considered credible by his own people, McChrystal has worked hard to make him so. Over the past few months, he has accompanied the president on more than 10 trips around the country, standing beside him at political meetings, or shuras, in Kandahar. In February, the day before the doomed offensive in Marja, McChrystal even drove over to the president’s palace to get him to sign off on what would be the largest military operation of the year. Karzai’s staff, however, insisted that the president was sleeping off a cold and could not be disturbed. After several hours of haggling, McChrystal finally enlisted the aid of Afghanistan’s defense minister, who persuaded Karzai’s people to wake the president from his nap.

This is one of the central flaws with McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy: The need to build a credible government puts us at the mercy of whatever tinpot leader we’ve backed – a danger that Eikenberry explicitly warned about in his cable. Even Team McChrystal privately acknowledges that Karzai is a less than ideal partner. “He’s been locked up in his palace the past year,” laments one of the general’s top advisers. At times, Karzai himself has actively undermined McChrystal’s desire to put him in charge. During a recent visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Karzai met three US soldiers who had been wounded in Uruzgan province. “General,” he called out to McChrystal, “I didn’t even know we were fighting in Uruzgan!”

Growing up as a military brat, McChrystal exhibited the mixture of brilliance and cockiness that would follow him throughout his career. His father fought in Korea and Vietnam, retiring as a two star general, and his four brothers all joined the armed services. Moving around to different bases, McChrystal took solace in baseball, a sport in which he made no pretense of hiding his superiority: In Little League, he would call out strikes to the crowd before whipping a fastball down the middle. McChrystal entered West Point in 1972, when the US military was close to its all-time low in popularity. His class was the last to graduate before the academy started to admit women.

The “Prison on the Hudson,” as it was known then, was a potent mix of testosterone, hooliganism and reactionary patriotism. Cadets repeatedly trashed the mess hall in food fights, and birthdays were celebrated with a tradition called “rat fucking,” which often left the birthday boy outside in the snow or mud, covered in shaving cream. “It was pretty out of control,” says Lt. Gen. David Barno, a classmate who went on to serve as the top commander in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005. The class, filled with what Barno calls “huge talent” and “wild-eyed teenagers with a strong sense of idealism,” also produced Gen. Ray Odierno, the current commander of US forces in Iraq.

The son of a general, McChrystal was also a ringleader of the campus dissidents – a dual role that taught him how to thrive in a rigid, top-down environment while thumbing his nose at authority every chance he got. He accumulated more than 100 hours of demerits for drinking, partying and insubordination – a record that his classmates boasted made him a “century man.” One classmate, who asked not to be named, recalls finding McChrystal passed out in the shower after downing a case of beer he had hidden under the sink. The troublemaking almost got him kicked out, and he spent hours subjected to forced marches in the Area, a paved courtyard where unruly cadets were disciplined. “I’d come visit, and I’d end up spending most of my time in the library, while Stan was in the Area,” recalls Annie, who began dating McChrystal in 1973. McChrystal wound up ranking 298 out of a class of 855, a serious underachievement for a man widely regarded as brilliant.

His most compelling work was extracurricular: As managing editor of The Pointer, the West Point literary magazine, McChrystal wrote seven short stories that eerily foreshadow many of the issues he would confront in his career. In one tale, a fictional officer complains about the difficulty of training foreign troops to fight; in another, a 19-year old soldier kills a boy he mistakes for a terrorist. In “Brinkman’s Note,” a piece of suspense fiction, the unnamed narrator appears to be trying to stop a plot to assassinate the president. It turns out, however, that the narrator himself is the assassin, and he’s able to infiltrate the White House: “The President strode in smiling. From the right coat pocket of the raincoat I carried, I slowly drew forth my 32caliber pistol. In Brinkman’s failure, I had succeeded.”

After graduation, 2nd Lt. Stanley McChrystal entered an Army that was all but broken in the wake of Vietnam. “We really felt we were a peacetime generation,” he recalls. “There was the Gulf War, but even that didn’t feel like that big of a deal.” So McChrystal spent his career where the action was: He enrolled in Special Forces school and became a regimental commander of the 3rd Ranger Battalion in 1986. It was a dangerous position, even in peacetime – nearly two dozen Rangers were killed in training accidents during the Eighties. It was also an unorthodox career path: Most soldiers who want to climb the ranks to general don’t go into the Rangers. Displaying a penchant for transforming systems he considers outdated, McChrystal set out to revolutionize the training regime for the Rangers. He introduced mixed martial arts, required every soldier to qualify with night-vision goggles on the rife range and forced troops to build up their endurance with weekly marches involving heavy backpacks.

In the late 1990s, McChrystal shrewdly improved his inside game, spending a year at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and then at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he coauthored a treatise on the merits and drawbacks of humanitarian interventionism. But as he moved up through the ranks, McChrystal relied on the skills he had learned as a troublemaking kid at West Point: knowing precisely how far he could go in a rigid military hierarchy without getting tossed out. Being a highly intelligent badass, he discovered, could take you far – especially in the political chaos that followed September 11th. “He was very focused,” says Annie. “Even as a young officer he seemed to know what he wanted to do. I don’t think his personality has changed in all these years.”

By some accounts, McChrystal’s career should have been over at least two times by now. As Pentagon spokesman during the invasion of Iraq, the general seemed more like a White House mouthpiece than an up and coming commander with a reputation for speaking his mind. When Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made his infamous “stuff happens” remark during the looting of Baghdad, McChrystal backed him up. A few days later, he echoed the president’s Mission Accomplished gaff by insisting that major combat operations in Iraq were over. But it was during his next stint – overseeing the military’s most elite units, including the Rangers, Navy Seals and Delta Force – that McChrystal took part in a cover-up that would have destroyed the career of a lesser man.

After Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former NFL star turned Ranger, was accidentally killed by his own troops in Afghanistan in April 2004, McChrystal took an active role in creating the impression that Tillman had died at the hands of Taliban fighters. He signed off on a falsified recommendation for a Silver Star that suggested Tillman had been killed by enemy fire. (McChrystal would later claim he didn’t read the recommendation closely enough – a strange excuse for a commander known for his laser-like attention to minute details. ) A week later, McChrystal sent a memo up the chain of command, specifically warning that President Bush should avoid mentioning the cause of Tillman’s death. “If the circumstances of Corporal Tillman’s death become public,” he wrote, it could cause “public embarrassment” for the president.

McChrystal may have sold Obama on his strategy, but his own troops aren’t buying it. “The false narrative, which McChrystal clearly helped construct, diminished Pat’s true actions,” wrote Tillman’s mother, Mary, in her book Boots on the Ground by Dusk. McChrystal got away with it, she added, because he was the “golden boy” of Rumsfeld and Bush, who loved his willingness to get things done, even if it included bending the rules or skipping the chain of command. Nine days after Tillman’s death, McChrystal was promoted to major general.

Two years later, in 2006, McChrystal was tainted by a scandal involving detainee abuse and torture at Camp Nama in Iraq. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, prisoners at the camp were subjected to a now familiar litany of abuse: stress positions, being dragged naked through the mud. McChrystal was not disciplined in the scandal, even though an interrogator at the camp reported seeing him inspect the prison multiple times. But the experience was so unsettling to McChrystal that he tried to prevent detainee operations from being placed under his command in Afghanistan, viewing them as a “political swamp,” according to a US official. In May 2009, as McChrystal prepared for his confirmation hearings, his staff prepared him for hard questions about Camp Nama and the Tillman cover-up. But the scandals barely made a ripple in Congress, and McChrystal was soon on his way back to Kabul to run the war in Afghanistan. The media, to a large extent, have also given McChrystal a pass on both controversies.

Where Gen. Petraeus is kind of a dweeb, a teacher’s pet with a Ranger’s tab, McChrystal is a snake-eating rebel, a “Jedi” commander, as Newsweek called him. He didn’t care when his teenage son came home with blue hair and a mohawk. He speaks his mind with a candor rare for a high ranking official. He asks for opinions, and seems genuinely interested in the response. He gets briefings on his iPod and listens to books on tape. He carries a custom made set of nunchucks in his convoy engraved with his name and four stars, and his itinerary often bears a fresh quote from Bruce Lee. (“There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”) He went out on dozens of nighttime raids during his time in Iraq, unprecedented for a top commander, and turned up on missions unannounced, with almost no entourage.

“The fucking lads love Stan McChrystal,” says a British officer who serves in Kabul. “You’d be out in Somewhere, Iraq, and someone would take a knee beside you, and a corporal would be like ‘Who the fuck is that?’ And it’s fucking Stan McChrystal. ”It doesn’t hurt that McChrystal was also extremely successful as head of the Joint Special Operations Command, the elite forces that carry out the government’s darkest ops. During the Iraq surge, his team killed and captured thousands of insurgents, including Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. “JSOC was a killing machine,” says Maj. Gen. Mayville, his chief of operations. McChrystal was also open to new ways of killing. He systematically mapped out terrorist networks, targeting specific insurgents and hunting them down – often with the help of cyber freaks traditionally shunned by the military. “The Boss would find the 24-year old kid with a nose ring, with some fucking brilliant degree from MIT, sitting in the corner with 16 computer monitors humming,” says a Special Forces commando who worked with McChrystal in Iraq and now serves on his staff in Kabul. “He’d say, ‘Hey – you fucking muscle heads couldn’t find lunch without help. You got to work together with these guys.’ ”

Even in his new role as America’s leading evangelist for counterinsurgency, McChrystal retains the deep seated instincts of a terrorist hunter. To put pressure on the Taliban, he has upped the number of Special Forces units in Afghanistan from four to 19. “You better be out there hitting four or five targets tonight,” McChrystal will tell a Navy Seal he sees in the hallway at headquarters. Then he’ll add, “I’m going to have to scold you in the morning for it, though.” In fact, the general frequently finds himself apologizing for the disastrous consequences of counter-insurgency. In the first four months of this year, NATO forces killed some 90 civilians, up 76 percent from the same period in 2009 – a record that has created tremendous resentment among the very population that COIN theory is intent on winning over. In February, a Special Forces night raid ended in the deaths of two pregnant Afghan women and allegations of a cover-up, and in April, protests erupted in Kandahar after US forces accidentally shot up a bus, killing five Afghans. “We’ve shot an amazing number of people,” McChrystal recently conceded.

Despite the tragedies and miscues, McChrystal has issued some of the strictest directives to avoid civilian casualties that the US military has ever encountered in a warzone. It’s “insurgent math” as he calls it – for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies. He has ordered convoys to curtail their reckless driving, put restrictions on the use of air power and severely limited night raids. He regularly apologizes to Hamid Karzai when civilians are killed, and berates commanders responsible for civilian deaths. “For a while,” says one US official, “the most dangerous place to be in Afghanistan was in front of McChrystal after a ‘civ cas’ incident.” The ISAF command has even discussed ways to make not killing into something you can win an award for: There’s talk of creating a new medal for “courageous restraint,” a buzzword that’s unlikely to gain much traction in the gung ho culture of the US military.

But however strategic they may be, 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 a former Special Forces operator who has spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. “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 same thing.”

In March, McChrystal traveled to Combat Outpost JFM – a small encampment on the outskirts of Kandahar – to confront such accusations from the troops directly. It was a typically bold move by the general. Only two days earlier, he had received an email from Israel Arroyo, a 25-year old staff sergeant who asked McChrystal to go on a mission with his unit. “I am writing because it was said you don’t care about the troops and have made it harder to defend ourselves,” Arroyo wrote. Within hours, McChrystal responded personally: “I’m saddened by the accusation that I don’t care about soldiers, as it is something I suspect any soldier takes both personally and professionally – at least I do. But I know perceptions depend upon your perspective at the time, and I respect that every soldier’s view is his own.” Then he showed up at Arroyo’s outpost and went on a foot patrol with the troops – not some bullshit photo-op stroll through a market, but a real live operation in a dangerous war zone.

Six weeks later, just before McChrystal returned from Paris, the general received another email from Arroyo. A 23-year old corporal named Michael Ingram – one of the soldiers McChrystal had gone on patrol with – had been killed by an IED a day earlier. It was the third man the 25-member platoon had lost in a year, and Arroyo was writing to see if the general would attend Ingram’s memorial service. “He started to look up to you,” Arroyo wrote. McChrystal said he would try to make it down to pay his respects as soon as possible. The night before the general is scheduled to visit Sgt. Arroyo’s platoon for the memorial, I arrive at Combat Outpost JFM to speak with the soldiers he had gone on patrol with. JFM is a small encampment, ringed by high blast walls and guard towers. Almost all of the soldiers here have been on repeated combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and have seen some of the worst fighting of both wars. But they are especially angered by Ingram’s death. His commanders had repeatedly requested permission to tear down the house where Ingram was killed, noting that it was often used as a combat position by the Taliban. But due to McChrystal’s new restrictions to avoid upsetting civilians, the request had been denied. “These were abandoned houses,” fumes Staff Sgt. Kennith Hicks. “Nobody was coming back to live in them.”

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. For a soldier who has traveled halfway around the world to fght, that’s like telling a cop he should only patrol in areas where he knows he won’t have to make arrests. “Does that make any fucking sense?” asks Pfc. Jared Pautsch. “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 – they’ve been distorted as they passed through the chain of command – 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 Hicks, who has served three tours of combat. “I get COIN. I get all that. McChrystal comes here, explains it, it makes sense. But then he goes away on his bird, and by the time his directives get passed down to us through Big Army, they’re all fucked up – either because somebody is trying to cover their ass, or because they just don’t understand it themselves. But we’re fucking losing this thing.”

McChrystal and his team show up the next day. Underneath a tent, the general has a 45minute discussion with some two dozen soldiers. The atmosphere is tense. “I ask you what’s going on in your world, and I think it’s important for you all to understand the big picture as well,” McChrystal begins. “How’s the company doing? You guys feeling sorry for yourselves? Anybody? Anybody feel like you’re losing?” McChrystal says. “Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we’re losing, sir,” says Hicks. McChrystal nods. “Strength is leading when you just don’t want to lead,” he tells the men. “You’re leading by example. That’s what we do. Particularly when it’s really, really hard, and it hurts inside. ” Then he spends 20 minutes talking about counter-insurgency, diagramming his concepts and principles on a whiteboard. He makes COIN seem like common sense, but he’s careful not to bullshit the men. “We are knee deep in the decisive year,” he tells them. The Taliban, he insists, no longer has the initiative – “but I don’t think we do, either.” It’s similar to the talk he gave in Paris, but it’s not winning any hearts and minds among the soldiers. “This is the philosophical part that works with think tanks,” McChrystal tries to joke. “But it doesn’t get the same reception from infantry companies.”

During the question and answer period, the frustration boils over. The soldiers complain about not being allowed to use lethal force, about watching insurgents they detain be freed for lack of evidence. They want to be able to fight – like they did in Iraq, like they had in Afghanistan before McChrystal. “We aren’t putting fear into the Taliban,” one soldier says. “Winning hearts and minds in COIN is a coldblooded thing,” McChrystal says, citing an oft-repeated maxim that you can’t kill your way out of Afghanistan. “The Russians killed 1 million Afghans, and that didn’t work.” “I’m not saying go out and kill everybody, sir,” the soldier persists. “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.” “I agree with you,” McChrystal says. “In this area, we’ve not made progress, probably. 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?”

A soldier complains that under the rules, any insurgent who doesn’t have a weapon is immediately assumed to be a civilian. “That’s the way this game is,” McChrystal says. “It’s complex. I can’t just decide: It’s shirts and skins, and we’ll kill all the shirts. ”As the discussion ends, McChrystal seems to sense that he hasn’t succeeded at easing the men’s anger. He makes one last ditch effort to reach them, acknowledging the death of Cpl. Ingram. “There’s no way I can make that easier,” he tells them. “No way I can pretend it won’t hurt. No way I can tell you not to feel that. . . . I will tell you, you’re doing a great job. Don’t let the frustration get to you. ” The session ends with no clapping, and no real resolution. McChrystal may have sold President Obama on counterinsurgency, but many of his own men aren’t buying 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 – and he wasn’t hampered by things like human rights, economic development and press scrutiny. The COIN doctrine, bizarrely, draws inspiration from some of the biggest Western military embarrassments in recent memory: France’s nasty war in Algeria (lost in 1962) and the American misadventure in Vietnam (lost in 1975). McChrystal, like other advocates of COIN, readily acknowledges that counterinsurgency campaigns are inherently messy, expensive and easy to lose. “Even Afghans are confused by Afghanistan,” he says. But even if he somehow manages to succeed, after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the US homeland, the 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 who has extensive experience in the region. “Afghanistan is not in our vital interest – there’s nothing for us there. ” In mid-May, two weeks after visiting the troops in Kandahar, McChrystal travels to the White House for a high level visit by Hamid Karzai. It is a triumphant moment for the general, one that demonstrates he is very much in command – both in Kabul and in Washington. In the East Room, which is packed with journalists and dignitaries, President Obama sings the praises of Karzai. The two leaders talk about how great their relationship is, about the pain they feel over civilian casualties. They mention the word “progress” 16 times in under an hour. But there is no mention of victory. Still, the session represents the most forceful commitment that Obama has made to McChrystal’s strategy in months. “There is no denying the progress that the Afghan people have made in recent years – in education, in health care and economic development,” the president says. “As I saw in the lights across Kabul when I landed – lights that would not have been visible just a few years earlier.”

It is a disconcerting observation for Obama to make. During the worst years in Iraq, when the Bush administration had no real progress to point to, officials used to offer up the exact same evidence of success. “It was one of our first impressions,” one GOP official said in 2006, after landing in Baghdad at the height of the sectarian violence. “So many lights shining brightly. ” So it is to the language of the Iraq War that the Obama administration has turned – talk of progress, of city lights, of metrics like health care and education. Rhetoric that just a few years ago they would have mocked. “They are trying to manipulate perceptions because there is no definition of victory – because victory is not even defined or recognizable,” says Celeste Ward, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation who served as a political adviser to US commanders in Iraq in 2006. “That’s the game we’re in right now. What we need, for strategic purposes, is to create the perception that we didn’t get run of. The facts on the ground are not great, and are not going to become great in the near future.”

But facts on the ground, as history has proven, offer little deterrent to a military determined to stay the course. Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn’t begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan. “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular,” a senior adviser to McChrystal says. Such realism, however, doesn’t prevent advocates of counterinsurgency from dreaming big: Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further. “There’s a possibility we could ask for another surge of US forces next summer if we see success here,” a senior military official in Kabul tells me.

Back in Afghanistan, less than a month after the White House meeting with Karzai and all the talk of “progress,” McChrystal is hit by the biggest blow to his vision of counterinsurgency. Since last year, the Pentagon had been planning to launch a major military operation this summer in Kandahar, the country’s second largest city and the Taliban’s original home base. It was supposed to be a decisive turning point in the war – the primary reason for the troop surge that McChrystal wrested from Obama late last year. But on June 10th, acknowledging that the military still needs to lay more groundwork, the general announced that he is postponing the offensive until the fall. Rather than one big battle, like Fallujah or Ramadi, US troops will implement what McChrystal calls a “rising tide of security.” The Afghan police and army will enter Kandahar to attempt to seize control of neighborhoods, while the US pours $90 million of aid into the city to win over the civilian population.

Even proponents of counterinsurgency are hard pressed to explain the new plan. “This isn’t a classic operation,” says a US military official. “It’s not going to be Black Hawk Down. There aren’t going to be doors kicked in.” Other US officials insist that doors are going to be kicked in, but that it’s going to be a kinder, gentler offensive than the disaster in Marja. “The Taliban have a jackboot on the city,” says a military official. “We have to remove them, but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t alienate the population.” When Vice President Biden was briefed on the new plan in the Oval Office, insiders say he was shocked to see how much it mirrored the more gradual plan of counter-terrorism that he advocated last fall. “This looks like CT-plus!” he said, according to US officials familiar with the meeting.

Whatever the nature of the new plan, the delay underscores the fundamental flaws of counterinsurgency. After nine years of war, the Taliban simply remains too strongly entrenched for the US military to openly attack. The very people that COIN seeks to win over – the Afghan people – do not want us there. Our supposed ally, President Karzai, used his influence to delay the offensive, and the massive influx of aid championed by McChrystal is likely only to make things worse.

“Throwing money at the problem exacerbates the problem,” says Andrew Wilder, an expert at Tufts University who has studied the effect of aid in southern Afghanistan. “A tsunami of cash fuels corruption, delegitimizes the government and creates an environment where we’re picking winners and losers” – a process that fuels resentment and hostility among the civilian population. So far, counter-insurgency has succeeded only in creating a never ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word “victory” when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible. Not even with Stanley McChrystal in charge.

We will try to edit and highlight as time permits.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

33 Responses to “‘The Runaway General’ – The Full Text”

  1. proreason says:

    1. There is 0 chance to win in Afghanistan with Obama as the CIC
    2. McChrystal now knows it. It oozes out of every word of this piece.
    3. Obama is a damned fool, in addition to being an idiot, for appointing a commander he knew nothing about.
    4. If the piece is accurate, the general is misplaced and should be the COO of the effort in Afghanistan, not the CEO. He’s the guy you want killing the bad guys, not managing the overall effort, which necessarilly includes political functions. No doubt McChrystal could have easily bested Eisenhauer in a Texas Cage Match, but Ike was able to win WWII. McChrystal seems to be another Patton.

    • proreason says:

      “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,”

      There is 0 chance to win this war with the Moron in charge.

      The regulations are INSANE. They KILL AMERICANS.

      Nobody over 3 years of age who wants to win a fight does it that way.

      Heroes are dying for nothing.

      Fox News should devote 3 hours a night, every night, just to discussing that “regulation”.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      After the demise that was Vietnam, where the politicians decided the rules of engagement, it was never supposed to happen again. What troubles me the most is the utter disregard this administration in general and the president in particular, have for the lives of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

      While he pushes the “rights” of illegal aliens in this nation, claiming hollow-cheeked “compassion for human life”, he and they intentionally tie our soldiers hands and feet and make them fight with, not a rifle, or even a sharp stick, but a flashlight…and one with dead batteries at that.

      It’s truly unreal. But we have people at home here who are reveling in the duplicity, the sanctimonious crap that spews forth like a manure spreader.

      No matter, just another day’s work for this wrecking crew.

    • BannedbytheTaliban says:

      Obama has a worse case of the ‘slows’ than George McClellan. His strategy to stymie American success in Afghanistan basically boils down to slow down the war effort and limit success. After a few months of spinning wheels, bring the troops home for a tickertape parade just before the election. All the ‘troop surges’ and installing McChrystal in the first place were diversionary, and CYA policy. Here is what Barak “victory isn’t the goal per say” Obama has done so far:

      1. Install flamboyant general who will obliviously have contention with Obama’s asinine war strategy. After all, what does a communist community organizer know about war?
      2. Ignore the advice and refuse to meet with said general to get the ball rolling on sending him over the edge.
      3. Delay necessary troop increases.
      4. Provide less that adequate forces when finally deciding to increase troop strength.
      5. Slowly add them to the ranks as to limit their effectiveness.
      6. Give them a hard deadline to get things done, and make it so close to the completion of the troop buildup, there are only a few months to get things done at “full” strength.
      7. Micro-manage the situation on the ground with restrictive R.O.E.
      8. Delay any operations that may prove to be successful to limit their scope and effectiveness because of the deadline.
      9. Rejoice that the general you appointed as a ticking time bomb finally came unglued due to your blatant and intentional incompetence just before the largest operation meant to deliver a decisive blow to the enemy, so you can relieve him and further delay the offensive.
      Things to look for:
      1. Obama will replace McChrystal with someone from the Navy or Air Force with no operational experience with ground forces.
      2. Further delay or cancel additional troop increases because they were part of McChrystal’s plan.
      3. Further delay or cancel upcoming offensives for the same reason.
      4. Maintain the 2011 pull out time table.
      5. Delay or cut funding due to the deficit.

      Conclusion: We’re boned. Better go get your Koran now before they are all gone and you are beheaded for not having one.

  2. BobonStatenIsland says:

    Shades of Douglas MacArthur

  3. AcornsRNutz says:

    I wouldn’t put this guy on a pedastal just yet. While I think his comments, or those of his staff are generally accurate assessments of a number of political matters, this guy is still not prepared to take a patton-esque stand quite yet. If he says “screw it I quit” and comes out to lambaste the failures in both obama and the latter day Bush war policies and admit that we can win this war only by setting out to achieve victory in the first place, then I’ll support him. Right now he is looking at his chance of becoming the next Powell falling apart before his eyes and I wonder if that wil lbe enough to pull him back into line with the boy kings attempts to lose this war.

  4. oldswimcoach says:

    Part of the challenge is the current Ambassador in Afghanistan was a previous commander there who did not get selected for a fourth star. In the politically charged atmosphere of very senior military officers, this is a bad situation for the commander on the ground.

    It is like having Jimmy Carter return with oversight power in the mid 1980’s to supervise Ronald Reagan and control the policy development and policy decisions of the president.

  5. wardmama4 says:

    I have to wonder exactly where the NYTs came up with their hit piece on McChrystal – according to this – McChrystal should be an Obamabot and is the mouthpiece of Obama – and other than the dinner(s) – under control?

    WTF am I missing? To judge McChrystal by his ‘subordinates’ and their terrible comments – can we now judge Obama by Rev Wrights – God D#*& the USA or Rahm Emmanuel’s – F*+& the Republicans? But of course I jest – as the Democrats are never, ever held accountable for a single thing they or their lacky’s do. Ever. While conservatives/Republicans are destroyed just on accusations alone.

    But like any great Warrior – the Left is terrified of McChrystal- so he must go – besides the Thug Administration must FUBAR OEF enough to be able to withdraw in Oct 2012 – to allow Obama a modicum of a chance at re-election.

  6. platypus says:

    Young boy and old man see a tiger standing quietly in a clearing. Young boy says to old man, I bet I can ride that tiger.

    Old man says, that’s not a good idea.

    Young boy says, but I can do it and it would be fun.

    Old man says, it’s still not a good idea.

    Young boy runs down the hill and pounces on the tiger in a perfect leap, grabbing the scruff of the tiger’s neck to hold on. The tiger roars and leaps up running and trying to shake off the boy.

    After a few minutes, the tiger stops and stands there panting. The boy yells to the old man, how do I get off without the tiger getting me?

    The old man says, I told you it wasn’t a good idea. And turns and starts walking away, shaking his head from side to side.

  7. Melly says:

    Granting an interview with “Rolling Stone” of all publications.
    I read the article. The sardonic take on the General and his staff of ruffians is typical “Rolling Stone” writing.
    Biden? You mean “Bite Me.”……….that’s so funny though.
    Well, that’s what the General gets for voting for Obama.

  8. bill148 says:

    Look, the bottom line is that Islam wants to rule the world. Their book tells them they can lie, cheat, steal, mutilate – whatever – infidels to achieve that goal. They are evil and our war has just begun. The Moron in the White House is not with us, ya’ll.

  9. The general will be fired. The comments, etc.. unforgivable no matter whom is the CIC. He must be.

    Somehow.. I don’t seem to care, nor am I surprised.

  10. Perdido says:

    He voted for Obama. His judgment is in question, rightfully so.

    Seriously. Obama had no qualifications for the office and this guy voted for him? Would he use the same criteria (whatever in hell it was) to promote someone in his organization?

    He needs to go.

    • proreason says:

      Good point Perdido.

      Even warriors have blind spots, and warriors are heads-on types of people who are in a line of work where they have to completely trust their mates, as well as make snap decisions. That type of background may have prevented the General from even having the ability to critically evaluate the Moron, no matter the time to learn the truth about him.

      There seem to be many more military people who voted for and even continue to support the most dangerous person to appear on the planet for 80 years. Hitler had his true believers in the military as well.

    • AcornsRNutz says:

      “Hitler had his true believers in the military as well.”

      Fortunatley for us, then as now, the best ones weren’t.

  11. canary says:

    I’d say Obama chose McChrystal because they both love muslim terrorists better than our own U.S. soldiers.

    The failure in the article, is pointing out that Karzai with McChyrstal’s constant support, have apologized & chewed out our American soldiers for killing terrorists too.

    Karzai gets a min. of 500,000 for each civilian killed, and Karzai calls terrorists civilians. Just because 2 women are pregnant does not mean they were not a threat to our soldier’s life. civilians.

    The “apologizing for killing civilians” by McChyrstal to Karzai on a daily basis is part of the COIN propaganda.

    How wonderful Obama, McChyrstal and Karzai must feel over this article.

    Pretending & apologizing they didn’t want this article, when they are dancing and singing “Oh Afganistan, our Afganistan, we are wed to you. See ? We really love you. We really love you. Our troops are dying by fire, to rebuild your mosques & girl schools you blow up.

    “..in the East Room, which is packed with journalists and dignitaries, President Obama sings the praises of Karzai.
    The two leaders talk about how great their relationship is,
    about the pain they feel over civilian casualties.

    Obama & Karzai – 2 fricking muslims singing praises over American & NATO soldiers dying and being blown to pieces to hand shining lights.

    “… the president says. “As I saw in the lights across Kabul when I landed – lights that would not have been visible just a few years earlier.”

    (Obama has stolen McCains words too)

    Obama fails to mention when he became the president the killing of little muslim girls going to school started again, and just last week 40 something little muslim girls were poisoned.

    Also, McChrystal & Obama are traitors for taking Karzai to visit wounded U.S. soldiers who could only lay in their hospital beds.

    Also, McChrystal & Obama are traitors for taking Karzai to Ft. Campbell
    for the COIN speech in the days right before young U.S. soldiers were to deploy again.
    Just last week a number of Ft. Campbell soldiers were killed. They only lasted a couple of weeks before being killed !!!!
    Doesn’t that sound like Vietnam. It is Vietnam, only Obama’s soldiers can’t
    defend themselves.

    Furthermore, Obama may have campaigned in speeches on focusing on Afganistan, but in his campaign book the insanity of his hope, once Bin Laden escaped it was over. He said he couldn’t do alot of damage from a cave, and we should focus on keeping our country safe within our borders, and he did not have the answers, just as he wrote there was no money for health care after spending money on war, and he didn’t have the answers.
    Obama can’t even keep our country safe.

    Our soldiers in Afganistan can’t go hide in caves for awhile. They can’t run for cover. They aren’t given warning like the Afgans are given to leave.
    Our U.S. soldiers can’t give up. Our soldiers have to look for bombs and detonate them on their way up to a house to bring tea to terrorists.

  12. canary says:

    The liberals & enemy will love Obama, general McChyrstal, & Karzai calling U.S. Soldiers “baby killers”.
    Plus, this disastor will take the pressure of plugging the dam hole.

    In early April Karzai threatened to join Taliban, but then Obama & general traitor McChyrstal parade him in the U.S. on visits to soldiers.

    and Memorial Day instead of Obama addressing the deaths of troops and veterans because of rain while golfing, next door to muslim Farauckman jew hater, Obama & McChyrstal cator to Karzai

    Obama re-names Afganistan War – ““Hamkari Baraye Kandahar,” which translates as “Cooperation for Kandahar”.”

    Karzai insists it simply be called ” a “process”.”

    Obama, Hillary, and Gen McChyrstal’s goal to “protect Afgan’s civilian criminal gangs, warlords, shakedown artists and drug operators”, from the overlapping Taliban.

    News Telegram: AP:NATO trying to avoid all-out offensive in Kandahar
    By Anne Gearan
    Memorial Day, May 31 2010

    WASHINGTON — In the make-or-break struggle for Kandahar, birthplace of Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency, U.S. commanders will try to pull off the military equivalent of brain surgery: defeating the militants with minimal use of force.

    President Barack Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy focuses on protecting population centers such as Kandahar…

    Because the task in Kandahar is so delicate, U.S. commanders talk about squeezing rather than driving out the Taliban.

    The military has struggled to come up with a description of the upcoming fight, avoiding terms like campaign, operation and battle because
    “because [sic] those words and others have annoyed Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

    So the U.S. is calling it “Hamkari Baraye Kandahar,” which translates as “Cooperation for Kandahar.” Karzai simply calls it a “process.”

    Whatever it’s called, U.S. military leaders say that unless it succeeds, the rest of the plan for pacifying Afghanistan is hollow.

    The insurgents’ authority overlaps with that of local criminal gangs, warlords, shakedown artists and drug operators.

    “Lessons have been learned since Iraq, a lot of lessons,” Clinton said.

    Obama & his regime have called it “over”.
    Now our U.S. Soldiers are being used and treated worse than slaves.
    Obama’s psychopathic revenge continues.

  13. Chuckk says:

    If McCrystal had a pair, he’d resign and publically state his reasons for doing so. Playing games will only allow the administration opportunity to cloud the issues.

  14. P. Aaron says:

    So, the White House and the Media, the critics and the advocates are all talking like the Rolling Stone article is accurate?

  15. Mithrandir says:

    I stopped reading right at this point:
    “Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect.”

    Stop right there! So, he voted for him, and now there is friction, and he may lose his job for the clown he voted for? —You get the government you deserve general…..serves you right.

    • canary says:

      read the rest, it’s the best part.
      I’d say Obama & McChrystal are so connected, each has their a**hole on the same coin.

      Obama described Marines in Iraq who just lost 5 of their own, as raw, skinny, pimple faced teenagers.
      Look at all the Marines being killed, and sending more Special Forces.

      I can’t believe O’Reilly and his guest saying McChrystal is brillliant and they feel sorry for him. sniff sniff. He won’t get blown up by and IED and he’ll have a nice pension, and get to be with his wife.

      McChrystal didn’t feel bad for a squad that just lost a soldier that McChrystal had even met. He belittled them.

      “… “I ask you what’s going on in your world, and I think it’s important for you all to understand the big picture as well,” McChrystal begins. “How’s the company doing? You guys feeling sorry for yourselves? Anybody? Anybody feel like you’re losing?” McChrystal says. “Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we’re losing, sir,” says Hicks. McChrystal nods….”

      Hey McChrystal? What’s going on in your world. I think it’s important you understand the big picture as well. Feel like you’re a loser? sniff sniff. sniff.

  16. GetBackJack says:

    Voted for Obama is all I needed to read.

    But if he was a Man in the image of Real Men he’d stand by his comments and not cower like a whipped pup groveling I’m Sorry.

    Surely this is not the best the Pentagon has to offer … or we be fooked as a Nation, folks.

  17. canary says:

    Rolling Stone shouldn’t have published the soldiers names that complained about the COIN “Process & Hamkari Baraye Kandahar” ROEs they are dying for.

    The Rolling Stone should buy the vacant shambled house that Corporal Michael Ingram died in, for his platoon, and let them tear it down. Or better burn it down by lighting the “covers of the Rolling Stone”.

    I think it would be a big boost for their moral, and help in the healing process, of their broken hearts and spirits brought on by the hands of the Obama Regime.

    Better yet, I think the Rolling Stones should organize & finance, a free membership no dues ” Union for U.S. Soldiers who serve under the Obama Regime”. Do some bargaining and win their freedom from Obama’s slavery, if thats what it takes to earn some loyality & respect.

  18. canary says:

    Our taxes going to Obama paying Billions of dollars in bribes to Taliban to protect convoys in Government Report. Even Karzai involved with the “butcher”.

    ABC News Report: U.S. Bribes to Protect Convoys Are Funding Taliban Insurgents
    By Nick Schifrin June 22 2010

    KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -The United States military is helping fund both sides of the war in Afghanistan, knowingly financing a mafia-like collection of warlords and some of the very insurgents American troops are battling, according to Afghan and American officials and a new Congressional study released today.

    Trucking executives and investigators from the House Subcommittee on National Security say the United States military knew it was helping fund the people it was fighting but did nothing about it,….

    The study’s findings are reinforced by half a dozen interviews conducted in the last few months by ABC News with executives from trucking and security companies, both Afghan and American. Two American trucking executives, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say the payment structure goes beyond that depicted by the House report, detailing an intricate system whereby

    the American military is handing over billions of dollars to companies that bribe insurgents, warlords, road bandits and even corrupt Afghan police and soldiers to hold their fire as the trucks roll past…

    In one case, a security company is paying a local commander who funnels American money directly to the Quetta Shura, the Taliban leadership…
    basically it’s a protection extortion racket,” Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), who chairs the House subcommittee, said in an interview with ABC News. “Tony Soprano would be proud of it.”

    The House’s 85-page report, titled “Warlord, Inc.” was released as doubts about the war crescendo in Washington….

    The report, along with a recent increase in violence, are so serious, the U.S. will have to determine whether to reconsider “the overall strategic approach to our mission in Afghanistan,” reads the report’s introduction.

    In this landlocked country, the United States has turned to eight private trucking companies to deliver the materiel and split a $2.16 billion Host Nation Trucking contract. To do that, the companies turn to the baddest, meanest, most heavily armed people…

    One American trucking executive details how the payments work: Each district or province that straddles Highway 1 has a “paymaster,” an intermediary between the private security company and those who attack the trucks. The paymaster will collect money from the security company — “an increasingly large amount,” the executive quips — and distribute it to whoever he needs to, including the Taliban, thieves, corrupt local officials, road bandits……..run by police who are also getting a cut.

    …., a single trip might make a security company more than half a million dollars.

    “What we usually do is provide funds to a tribal elder, who will then say, this convoy is XYZ, leave it alone….”

    But fears that the security company was using the money to pay insurgents were reinforced on May 14. After a handful of particularly bad incidents, …. Within a few weeks, the government allowed the companies to resume convoy duties.

    Afghan Report Says Lieutenant Colonels Were Aware of Convoy Bribes…
    The House subcommittee uncovered written evidence that military officers ranked as high as lieutenant colonel knew about the likely payments to insurgents, but did nothing.

    “One senior Department of Defense official in Afghanistan stated that there have been significant discussions within the Department [of Defense] of the problem of protection payments to local warlords and the Taliban,…… — hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.'”

    U.S. officials admit that they simply haven’t been focused on contracting despite the billions of dollars of taxpayer money dedicated to it.

    The most powerful security commander in Afghanistan is a man named Ruhullah. He agreed to a rare meeting with a reporter, walking in with a gold rolex watch and a slightly squeaky voice. His nickname is
    The Butcher…

    Ruhullah is employed by Watan Risk Management, owned by a cousin and close confidant of President Hamid Karzai. He in turn employs hundreds of guards to defend 3,500 trucks every month  by far the largest share of the security companies working with the Host Nation Trucking contract. He told the subcommittee he spends $1.5 million worth of ammunition — every month.

    Officials in Pakistan believe that Ruhullah not only funds the local warlords and thieves and road bandits in Afghanistan, but sends a portion of his money to the Quetta Shura  the Taliban leadership council, based in southwest Pakistan.

    “If one of the foundational aspects of counter-insurgency is to have a government in Afghanistan that people from that country can trust….– but the guy that’s armed might make $20 million in a year — ….”


    The teamsters should demand the trucking jobs.

  19. wardmama4 says:

    I still stand by my opinion of McChrystal re: How the heck did the NYTs come up with their hit piece and how can anyone call this a ‘hit piece’ or that McChrystal is out of control?

    The tell here -‘According to sources familiar with the meeting’- NEVER, EVER forget it was a jerk who wrote that Bush ‘said’ something at a meeting ‘according to someone at the meeting’ – who never was in the room. Don’t forget that TIME started the Haditha mess with a ‘independent’ Iraqi journalist – who just so happened to have gotten his equipment (which just so happen to be set up at the exact time & place of this atrocityincident) from a Iraqi Human Rights group [See Haditha Reporter Was Jailed By US – Twice in S&L archives under Haditia or Murtha]? Now this freelance ‘journalist’ is just using sources ‘familiar’ with the meeting!?! And everyone is buying into it

    I have to ask you – What are those with inquiring minds going to find out about Mr. Hastings – should anyone ever bother to do any investigating of him – Take a close look at this article – other than comments (and notice, other than a smile about the Whose That? Re Biden) – We do not know whether Mr. Hastings edited out any negative reactions from McChrystal in regards to all these – according to sources – commentary. Which are by the way mostly in private (non-public) places – Want to publish what Obama says on the record much less what he says off the record – Anytime soon – ‘journalists’????

    I don’t buy this – and notice how now the ‘talk’ is no longer about Obama’s failures in the Gulf – his illegal extortion of 20billion from BP – but rather a snarky article written in a totally worthless magazine about a General? Talk about weapons of mass distortion – The Thug Administration has it down pat – of course having the MSM under his control is a great help.

    PT Barnum was right – there is a sucker born every minute – I have to ask – if this is not about deflection from the BP Gulf mess – just WTF is the Thug Administration up to this week that needs such a big ‘scandal’ to cover up?

    God Help America – Don’t get stuck on Stupid – It will get us all killed.

  20. AcornsRNutz says:

    At the end of the day, this was a politcal move by the general. He saw the opportunity to get a little risque with his comments and, believing the president to be in hot water with the common man (ie the rolling stone reader) he let this article be written in the dubious context that it was. I firmly believe this is why the mild shout outs to hillary and the acknowledgment of his liberal leanings. Furthermore, does anyone believe this guy wasn’t asking hte president to be allowed to win the war when he was “selling the unsellable”? This guy spent the time he was in control of operations in afghanistan taking hte heat for the lousy strategy and foolish ROEs, which I seriously doubt were all his ideas. Bottom line, he is not copping the democrap politician line about context or blaming it on his staffers a la obama. He took responsibility. This display of good character will never stand. One can only hope he does the honorable thing and resigns, then sends the president down the river on his mishandling of the war. They did it to Bush with great effect.

    • canary says:

      General McChyrstal showed stupid voting for Obama. I have no problems with the article and his comments, much of it old news. I had problems with Obama choosing McChyrstal. I can’t respect a general that cators to a corrupt Afganistan leader & corrupt Obama, at the cost of our troops lives and body parts. McChyrstal thinks it’s great apologizing for & demonizing America and ruining what America stands for. Our troops are sick of the taliban laughing at them while pull at a hidden gun and shoot them, or plant IEDs when their one their way to build a school. The former General’s cell phone may have pissed in poor McChyrstal’s lap, but it doesn’t compare to the dump he’s taken on our U.S. soldiers. McChyrstal’s just another Obama party animal leaving a mess.

      snif snif. Karzai is ordering Obama not to fire McChyrstal. Karzai loved visiting the WH. visiting our mangled troops in hospitals and troops at Ft. Campbell and seeing them die only days after they arrived.

    • AcornsRNutz says:

      Eh, I don’t regard Army generals all that highly anyway, at least not the ones we see today. Good point that he was a silly choice to start with, but we can stil pray he takes his opportunity to rip up and expose the obama “strategery” now that Petraeus has the fight and he has nothing left to do with the whole debacle.

  21. I think this situation is a set-up designed to help Obama with his image while calculating another way for his team of leftist radicals to hurt the military.
    What’s wrong with all these contradictions?

    A “highly intelligent badass” allows an openly hostile reporter from an openly hostile rag to hang with him and his team (handpicked, highly intelligent bad-asses) while they get hammered and while they make locker room commentary about their civilian leadership?

    This reporter references unnamed people who heard stuff about private meetings, and he quotes things said in private that come across as divisive public comments (violating military doctrine)?

    McChyrstal heads the JSOC, leads it as a “killing machine,” then he goes behind the lines in combat and “takes a knee” with corporals. How would this leader allow his orders on the Rules of Engagement to be interpreted so badly that they spell almost certain death for some of his soldiers?

  22. proreason says:

    Ollie North: “This week’s firing was simply political theater designed to enhance Obama’s stature as a “leader” in the eyes of his supporters and critics.”


  23. proreason says:

    More reasons come out pointing to the McChrysal playlette as a setup.

    Today’s Wapro uses it to attack military professionalism: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/25/AR2010062502160.html Expect much more of that.

    A commenter on another site claims that by moving Petraueus to Afghanistan, it will be possible to move anti-semite generals to CENTCOM. “The McChrystal Affair is an elegantly conceived, planned and executed operation designed to replace Petraeus in Centcom with some one who was anti-Israel and who accepted the notion of the Soviet Sphere of Influence.”. That makes more sense than the administration’s story that 4-star generals are really frat boys.

    There are now 7 or 8 “benefits” for Obamy in this playlette. With no negatives.

    The odds of that happening are more than 128 to 1.

  24. AcornsRNutz says:

    pro, I gotta say, as I have watched this play out, my feelings and suspiscions have run the gamut. I frankly can’t discount any amount of bizarre misconduct and shady dealings with this current bunch, One thing we can all agree on, just like stupek, blago, wright, ayers and many other figures and fiascoes in this regime’s short history, this think stinks on ice.

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