Oh boy: “Rolling Stone” to expose McChrystal’s feuding with administration officials; Update: WH, Gates phone McChrystal; Update: McChrystal apologizes

posted at 9:17 pm on June 21, 2010 by Allahpundit

Via Cuffy Meigs at Perfunction, the RS piece isn’t out yet but this story makes it sound … oh boy. Reserve judgment until the article is published later this week, but if it’s half as bad as the AP description makes it sound — the American leadership at war with itself while the drive towards Kandahar has stalled — there’s going to be major fallout.

The way the AP account is written, it sounds like McChrystal badmouthed Karl Eikenberry on the record with the magazine. Gulp.

An article out this week in “Rolling Stone” magazine depicts Gen. Stanley McChrystal as a lone wolf on the outs with many important figures in the Obama administration and unable to convince even some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the war…

McChrystal himself is described by an aide as “disappointed” in his first Oval Office meeting with an unprepared President Barack Obama. The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops…

If Eikenberry had the same doubts [about McChrystal’s strategy], McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counterinsurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.

McChrystal said he felt “betrayed” and accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

“Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books,” McChrystal told the magazine. “Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so.”‘

Compare and contrast the McChrystal/Eikenberry relationship with that of Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, whom Foreign Policy noted last year never allowed their disagreements to go public. This isn’t the first time McChrystal’s spoken publicly about matters the White House would prefer remained in-house, either. Remember last year when The One freaked out over his speech in London calling for more troops?

There’ll be more on this later in the week, needless to say, but it’s worth putting it on your radar screen now. Be sure to read the whole AP piece too, as there’s more to it than just the bit I quoted — including troops in the field, again on record, questioning McChrystal’s rules of engagement. Exit question: Between this and Karzai reportedly giving up on NATO, isn’t anyone on our side in sync?

Update: Oh boy, again.

Private security contractors protecting the convoys that supply U.S. military bases in Afghanistan are paying millions of dollars a week in “passage bribes” to the Taliban and other insurgent groups to travel along Afghan roads, a congressional investigation released Monday has found.

The payments, which are reimbursed by the U.S. government, help fund the very enemy the U.S. is attempting to defeat and renew questions about the U.S. dependence on private contractors, who outnumber American troops in Afghanistan , 130,000 to 93,000.

The report’s author called the findings of the six-month investigation “sobering and shocking.”

Update: Like I said — major fallout. Marc Ambinder relays the administration’s reaction.

What in the heck was Gen. Stanley McChrystal thinking? I mean, I know what he was thinking: he was tired of being the victim of what he believes is a concerted effort on behalf of Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and others to undermine everything he was given 18 months to do. He was tired of being perceived in the press as a neoconservative killer, Dick Cheney’s hired assassin, or disloyal to President Obama and his staff. He was angry at being blamed for leaking the draft of his report to the President to Bob Woodward. (He did NOT leak the document). He was miffed that a large number of mid-ranking soldiers and battalion commanders and enlisted guys didn’t support his strategy…

I don’t think McChrystal intended to do this. Nevertheless, he did. And as for whether there was some miscommunication about attribution, or whether McChrystal thought no one would really notice, or whether he thought a tick-tock like this would help his cause … those questions are unanswerable right now…

Within hours after today’s Rolling Stone story broke, McChrystal was called by the White House, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They were not happy.

Read his whole post for essential background on how poisonous the McChrystal/Eikenberry relationship has been. This has been going on since 2005, apparently. Why on earth would Obama put them in charge of Afghanistan together if they don’t get along?

Update: McChrystal retreats. Is it fast enough to save him?

He says in a statement: “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard. I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome.”

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So basically McChrystal is complaining that he, after 34 years of service, has inherited a moron as a CNC.

DSchoen on June 22, 2010 at 2:50 PM

The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start.

Part of my reaction is shame on McCrystal

He voted for a POS who never had any appreciation for the military and he’s suprised that they didn’t connect? And now he’s crawling back like a good soldier?

katiejane on June 22, 2010 at 3:49 PM

We need the fighting skills of those raised in running, playing, and hunting in mountain regions of the Appalachians and Rockies. That goes for the Canadian forces as well. Might also want to dig up some of the historical accounts (as close to time period as possible) of the integration of the Scottish clans and the fighting methods used against Bonnie Prince Charlie (which I think much informed the fighting methods of many of our colonists during the American Revolution).

Greyledge Gal on June 22, 2010 at 7:47 AM

Sorry I couldn’t get back to you sooner!

We do need not only the fighting style of the Bonnie Prince, but his understanding of the clan system of Scotland. It is not that we are so far away from that history – of clans and families fighting each other – but that we refuse to teach and understand it. Even a good overview of Appalachia and the Hatfields v. McCoys would help in getting a functional basis of understanding of how a society can work in this realm down to our children.

My point is not to try and wish into place a functioning Nation State: it can’t be done in less than a century in Afghanistan.

What we can do is adjust our strategy, logistics and outlook to the grand tactical scale that is part and parcel of the region: mountain warfare. Flatland troops, unaccustomed to high altitude fighting, are useless and serve as ready targets. Thus they are garrison duty troops, at worse, and limited urban patrol troops, at best, until they can spend a year getting acclimated to the altitude. SOCOM can do some work as special ops requires a certain kind of stamina, but even that isn’t mountain stamina which changes the character of the blood, lung capacity and musculature. Whenever mountain troops fight in flatland areas they become premier troops as they have stamina above and beyond their flatland counterparts. We saw this with the 10MD deployment in Iraq – they were tireless, relentless and always on the move. That is why the Alpenkorps got so many of the tough nuts in WWII, and also why the Finns (even in losing) made the Russian victory a slaughterhouse that left the Red Army reeling.

That is how the NATIVES in Afghanistan fight and we had better step up to the plate to understand that.

We haven’t. We have refused to exploit the good work done by the Canadians and our own 10MD to understand what is necessary in Afghanistan. I would love for a Marine Mountain Division (although highly oxymoronic in nomenclature) as such an organization would chew through anything at any altitude. Geography determines troop types and our best and most modernized troop organizations via the Strykers, is at about the half-way mark on organization but need the dismounted and purely manual skills for stamina necessary for Afghanistan. Air support is dicey with 30-50% of lift capacity gone due to altitude, plus treacherous wind systems. So self-contained units in need of less constant supply but full re-supply on return changes the logistical and strategic outlook of the conflict. By not implementing these things we have already taken a strike against ourselves by refusing to acknowledge the type of war this is.

Politically I would want the SOCOM forces to become the intermediaries to the tribes in Afghanistan and allow them to set up a self-protecting militia system. That form of system is in OUR history and we should utilize it as it is understood in Afghanistan. Local, tribal pride and ability to protect one’s family was and is a measure of a man in Afghanistan, and we should play that to the hilt. If the tribes can be given that ability, then we need fewer forces to protect them as they protect themselves. Throw up some ‘Most Wanted’ posters at an outreach tent or building, and you now have an incentive to guard territory well. Work between the tribes at a designated Loya jirga coordinator(s) and this system self-deconflicts. Suddenly you have hundreds of eyes and ears per US troop on the ground, and a system to ID threats as they arise and start countering them so that we can then dedicate more lethal forces to such places.

A second supply route is mandatory in Afghanistan for any modern forces, and even Alexander had garrisons behind him to protect his long, long, long logistical trail. Pakistan puts us at the mercy of the Talibe by not allowing that solution of Alexander, so we must, without question, get a second supply route through and that is the Georgia/Azerbeijan/Caspian/Turkmenistan route between Russia and Iran. Open that up with truck/rail/cargo vessels and ensure a two way route so that commercial goods can flow cheaply OUT and bring local income IN along with our supplies. That gives everyone along the entire route a stake in the venture, and starts to support indigenous Afghan commerce. Now Afghanistan will desperately need that if it does not want to dance to the tune of Pakistan/Iran/Russia for its mineral sales. It was a critical need under Bush (who failed in diplomacy with Russia) and now becomes an essential survival need that is unmet.

We cannot craft a winning system without taking into account logistics, geography and social structure of the area we are in. Those things set the bounds of our solution space and we must adjust to them, not wish that they would adjust to us. Fighting this way actually costs less, requires fewer troops, garners a thinner logistical trail and puts the US where it likes to be in creating infrastructure that has multi-level buy-in.

Someone needs to slap our war colleges around: they are failing in teaching this sort of approach and history, and we are paying the price.

ajacksonian on June 23, 2010 at 7:45 AM