General McChrystal on the rocks for bashing Obama administration

McCrystal.jpg

General Stanley McChrystal, the top general in Afghanistan, is in hot water with the White House after he and his staff bashed the president, vice president, and top advisers in a profile written by Rolling Stone magazine. He has been summoned to the White House to meet with President Barack Obama, and his days may be numbered.

In the profile, McChrystal said he felt “betrayed” by US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who he felt was covering “his flank for the history books” by releasing memos critical of the situation in Afghanistan last fall. McChrystal joked about “dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.” McChrystal, when asked about Vice President Joe Biden, responds: “Who’s that?”

A top McChrystal adviser is quoted likening the vice president’s name to “Bite Me.” Another aide described National Security Adviser James Jones as a “clown” who is “stuck in 1985.” Etc. Here is a partial account from AFP, as the full article has not been released on Rolling Stone‘s website:

In the profile, McChrystal jokes sarcastically about preparing to answer a question referring to Vice President Joe Biden, known as a skeptic of the commander’s war strategy and imagined ways of “dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.”

“‘Are you asking about Vice President Biden?’ McChrystal says with a laugh. ‘Who’s that?'” the article quotes him as saying.

“‘Biden?’ suggests a top adviser. ‘Did you say: Bite Me?'”

An unnamed adviser to McChrystal also says in the article that the general came away unimpressed after meeting with Obama in the Oval Office a year ago.

“It was a 10-minute photo op,” the general’s adviser says.

“Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was… he didn’t seem very engaged.

“The boss was pretty disappointed,” says the adviser.

McChrystal tells the magazine that he felt “betrayed” by the US ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, in a White House debate over war strategy last year.

Referring to a leaked internal memo from Eikenberry that questioned McChrystal’s request for more troops, the commander suggested the ambassador had tried to protect himself for history’s sake.

“Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books,” McChrystal tells Rolling Stone.

“Now if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.'”

This story tops weeks of terrible news pouring out of Afghanistan, including: the delay of the Kandahar security operation and a lack of support from tribal leaders in the province; the difficulty in securing Marja; Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s loss of confidence in the US and NATO; the resignation of the Afghan Interior Minister and the chief of the National Directorate of Intelligence, two pro-American officials who are anti-Taliban hawks; General David Petraeus’ fainting spell during testimony before Congress on the course of the war; and the report that the military is in effect funding the insurgency through transportation contracts.

The comments by McChrystal and his staff are at the least disrespectful to the President and the administration, and at worst insubordinate. It is unlikely that he can continue his command of Coalition forces in Afghanistan given the circumstances. And given that his staff had participated in the mudslinging, the slate will need to be wiped clean, leaving the question of who will succeed McChrystal if he resigns or is fired.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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32 Comments

  • Jay Oliver says:

    Being in his position he should have bit his tongue and held it in BUT, HE IS SAYING WHAT ALL THE TOP BRASS THINKS OF THIS ADMINISTRATION.

  • Brian says:

    It seems like McChrystal was better suited to hunting AQ in the shadows – rather than being in his current position.
    I’m hoping the replacement will loosen the rules of engagement. We need to kill the Talibs in greater numbers (even if that means more civilian casualties). IMHO, the benefits of killing your enemy and displaying your power outweigh the downside of civilian casualties. I don’t think restraint wins over fence-sitters in that part of the world. It smells like timidity and a lack of confidence. It won’t win allies.
    I hope the President uses this transition as an opportunity to extend (or eliminate) the ill-conceived withdrawl timeline.

  • hillbilly says:

    Like the US politicians US generals are also into semantics,soundbites , media image and claps from the galleries…….

  • Scott P. says:

    Not good. Hard to believe that Gen. McChrystal didn’t know that his comments and those of his staff wouldn’t get back to Washington. Or perhaps he knew exactly what he was doing??
    And I bet Mike Yon is loving this huh?

  • ArneFufkin says:

    Much of the criticism directed toward this Administration seems to have come from unnamed “aides”. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reporter involved gained access through deception and shopped his story to lefty leaning publications after the fact. He is an “independent” journalist – I wonder if he was in the employ of Rolling Stone during the time he had access?

  • Mr T says:

    The truth hurts.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    “I hope the President uses this transition as an opportunity to extend (or eliminate) the ill-conceived withdrawl timeline.” I agree with your assessment. That timeline was a strategic error. Unfortunately, the current administration doesn’t have the tenacity to pursue this campaign. If McChrystal is removed, I would most likely prefer a U.S. Marine in charge, and unleash our boys to pursue the enemy with looser ROE’s. If not, bring them home and heavily fund the Northern Alliance, as well as all potential anti-mullah elements in Iran. Let them stew in their own violence for a few years.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @m3fd2002. I’d like to see a Marine Commander as well. It would be a demotion for General Mattis, as he is in line for the Commandant job and is turning his command at USJFCOM to Odierno in September but he’d be the man for the job. Perhaps the Deputy Commander of CENTCOM General Allen?
    This is a real mess and a severe setback to the mission.
    I’m going to guess that McChrystal resigns his command and either Rodriguez or, preferably, Caldwell takes his place. FUBAR.

  • Michael Slater says:

    I don’t know how an objective observer can read the RS article and not note the degree to which the general’s inner circle was reflecting his opinions. I don’t care how these guys see themselves as, the Pope’s Cardinal’s play to their audience. If he had forbidden that kind of talk, despite the occasional comment from an underling reacting emotionally to something or other, the article would have reflected it. And without making a big deal of it, why was the general in bdu’s when he met with the president on Air Force One last winter when he was last called onto the carpet? Remove him now and bring in someone who understands that war is politics.

  • JRP says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Brian, m3fd2002, and Arnefufkin. Personally, I never cottonned to General McChrystal’s concepts, especially on the severe ROE restraints. What we need is a President like Lincoln or F.D. Roosevelt who lets his Generals fight and, moreover, encourages them to fight, and Generals under their command who are just itching to fight; think [Admiral] Halsey, General Patton, General Curtis LeMay.

  • Dale says:

    The guy may have just single-handedly lost the war on terror with this selfish reckless act — great job.

  • B says:

    General McChrystal has always struck me as an odd choice for the job given his background. Why choose someone who is used to operating generally “under the radar” and place them in such a high-profile post? Why choose someone who has never owned battlespace and has no experience in COIN other than (generally lethal) targeting?
    While General McChrystal was certainly highly effective in his previous command, his lack of any real-world experience in COIN has been clearly evident in his current campaign (I won’t get into how unsuitable our COIN doctrine is for the Afghan fight anyways, thats another argument.)
    Why not put someone in charge who has actually owned an area in Afghanistan and improved it during their command?
    That being said, I do agree with some of the General’s assertions and opinions as mentioned in the bits and pieces of the article that have been released thus far.
    Oddly enough, an early removal of General McChrystal might actually save him some face in the long run. That way, he could be seen as being removed due to political reasons only and not as a result of the disastrous “new strategy” in Afghanistan.

  • SomeGuy says:

    I find it hard to believe that a guy who was in/ran the Special Ops community for so long doesn’t know how to play chess. You want me to think he doesn’t think through the second and third order effects of his comments before he speaks to someone in the media?
    He had a plan that asked for way more troops, it was denied and an arbitrary timeline anounced. He modified that plan and Soldiered on. Then the State department had their tiff with Karzai. Then he was pressured from State and the White House to enact strict measures to further prevent civilian casualty events. Which he did in the form of the new ROE.
    It’s pretty clear as many of you have stated, and most in the Army know…Afghanistan is not going well.
    I think he saw himself as Westmoreland and realized that during the 2011 withdrawl he would be scapegoated as having a failed plan. So why not damage the politicians who short-changed his plan to begin with by “carelessly” snubbing them. Allowing him to fade into the background before the final chapter when THEY will be left holding the bag.
    Too conspiracy theory?
    I don’t know, but what are the history books going to say: “In Summer 2010 the WH had policy/strategy arguements with it’s top General in Afghanistan, he was fired due to public comments regarding that disagreement. 15 months later the whole place went to hell.”

  • Cordell says:

    According to reports about the Rolling Stone article, the ROE were imposed upon McChrystal by the Obama administration, which may explain a great deal about the source of the general’s contempt. Replacing McChrystal likely will not change this fact unless it provides Obama a convenient opportunity to change his own policy and blame the general for it. This is Chicago-style politics: undercut those to whom you delegate a task, and if things don’t go perfectly, knife them in the back to deflect blame from yourself. Loyalty is a two-way street; a leader must be loyal to win the loyalty of those he leads.
    Obama will now find few competent generals willing to take McChrystal’s place in Afghanistan; it’s like being asked to take command of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg, knowing you’ll be the one blamed when the ship eventually sinks. For this reason, I doubt that Obama will fire McChrystal.

  • Bungo says:

    General McC has a proven track record that impresses me. He can get the job done if you give him what he needs. The ROE sound stupid to a lot of people but there are reasons for the ROE. I support Gen McC 100%. Any change in the top position at this time will not be good.

  • Spooky says:

    What little civillian casualties there are are what give the Taliban fuel Increasing it will not give us a stable state to eventually exit from. You’d do better with nuking the place and good luck having any sort of moral highground after that.
    Appalled and saddened at the General’s comments. Alas, he did the right thing by tendering his resignation rather than let this get worse.
    I too wonder who will replace him. I also wonder how he will get things done. Hopefully a happy medium can be sought that doesn’t make us out to be devils while allowing us to complete our mission. We have, thus far, not struck the right note, but we’ll get there. The President better learn something from this and focus on it like he does on the domestic issues.

  • corey.adams says:

    McChrystal has to know that you can’t publicly criticize your boss and keep your job.

  • Neo says:

    Backbiting has to be the absolute stupidest way to end a carrier and can undercut everything that everyone is trying to acheive. At this point this is still just backbiting and petty disrespect, although on the highest level. Unfortunately, even intelligent people are human and given to outbursts of frustration. These people need to keep their flapping jaws screwed tightly shut.
    Given the inherent culture clash between the military and a new left administration, this sort of thing becomes almost inevitable, on some level. This is first order culture clash, on the level of inviting tailgaters and vegetarians to the same campus party. Everyone has to play nice even when the hideous stares, and gagging noises, make everyone’s true feeling known. You’re supposed to smile, and appreciate the effort, when offered the BBQ-tofu, even when you seriously doubt even your dog would eat it.
    The military people know the civilian administration doesn’t have its heart in the fight. For their part, the administration can’t figure out how to disengage from Afghanistan without horrendous long term consequences. Catch 22. The military and this administration are stuck with each other for now, but it was always a shotgun wedding, and Muslim extremists are holding the shotgun.
    The military doesn’t have a winning strategy and has little chance in the short term of finding one.. Since a decisive winning strategy is not in the works, the military will inevitably find its credibility eroded. Eventually, there will be a lot of pressure from the neo-pacifist true believers within the Democratic party hierarchy to come down hard on the military. This sort of backbiting just feeds the muckraking in the press and hastens the whole process. Gates better watch how this stuff plays out. Once it starts, it’s going to get nasty, I’m surprised the Gates = McNamara mime hasn’t really been heard from yet.

  • Civy says:

    You have to think him very stupid, or at the end of his rope with the Obama Administration. You don’t make those kind of statements unless you have written off the assignment and are throwing yourself under a bus for a higher purpose.
    I wonder what the planning looks like for a US ground invasion of the tribal areas? KIA? Duration? Not option #1, but a plan has to be there as Al Queda will likely force the issue with more attacks on the US.

  • Lorenz Gude says:

    Reading the press and the above comments it is hard to have much certainty about what happened. That there is tension between the military and the administration is obvious.Yet it is difficult to believe that McChrystal didn’t understand that his remarks, if published, would have consequences. Was he gulled by a reporter who broke ‘off the record’ protocol or was he sending a calculated message to remove himself from a position he thinks impossible? I’m confused. I think we have a government determined to withdraw and a military determined to fight to win. I’m with the military but I think the President is going to get his way and the consequences will not be good. Check this post at augeanstables.com to see what is already happening that is not being reported as a result of the policy of appeasement in France: //bit.ly/bg6tSg The Second Amendment is looking better all the time. 🙂

  • Neo says:

    I deleted a few sentences from my post where I was going to warn against over-reaction. The is major backbiting and lack of respect. However, General McCrystal has shown no signs of insubordination and is not “out of control”

  • Luca says:

    Guys, you are among the most informed internet forums on this so i ask:
    “The departure of Gen. McChrystal would be the last nail in the coffin for the Western predicament in Afghanistan”. Do you agree or is the situation somewhat salvageable without him?

  • T Ruth says:

    Oh well, I hope Petraeus will have the good sense to renegotiate the timeline!

  • BraddS says:

    Absolutely none of the media reports I have read give the slightest hint that the MSM are willing to take ANY responsibility for bringing down a U.S. general. Congratulations Rolling Stone, you have done what the Taliban couldn’t. Even with all their money and support, the Talis could only dream of what you have managed with a single editorial decision. You’ve ruined countless lives of my generation by glorifying drug use when we were young, and now you have handed the Taliban a major propaganda victory. Where to next?

  • Civy says:

    Neo,
    I think, unfortunately, McCrystal was out of control. When the agreement with RS was struck, he would have had an opportunity to reserve the right to strike anything he wanted.
    Having chose not to was stupid, but once that decision was taken, being tight-lipped and under control was of paramount importance – as he must have well understood. Otherwise, he is too inept to lead, as his position, like Ike’s in WWII, directing an Allied campaign, requires a lot of diplomatic skills.
    In contrast to Petraeus, who is genuinely humble, and diplomatic by nature, McCrystal seems arrogant and opinionated to his core. I’m sure this was getting very old for those who had to interface with him to make the mission succeed – like Karzi.
    I think Obama’s decision here was masterful, and Petraeus is turning out to be a national treasure. As for the civilian government not wanting to fight, or fight to win, whether that has been true in the past or not, it would be a stroke of genius for Obama to not only support the war, but in the vigorous way that would go a long way towards winning support from many alienated by the left.
    Rallying around the flag and beating war drums is a well-proven path to political success.

  • BraddS says:

    Why does everyone assume that these articles just “get written”, as if they were an Act of God like the weather? Someone hoping for a Pulitzer prize had to make a conscious decision to include stuff in his article, and someone else back in the States had to make a conscious decision to print it. Why do they come out blameless? Oh that’s right, because they control the very means by which they could be criticized…

  • m3fd2002 says:

    The decision to remove McChrystal and replace him with Petraeus could have some problems. Petraeus is a strategist not a tactician. In Iraq, Petreaus outlines strategy and had Odierno/McChrystal bare the stick, so to speak. I’m concerned about possible burn-out for Petraeus. He’s earned the position as CENTCOM commander. The Afghanistan post (tactical level) requires a commander with abundant stamina. Of course, he wouldn’t refuse the posting. I hope that we aren’t asking too much from this great warrior.

  • Neo says:

    Civy,
    I have a totally different picture. First of all, Karzi has a working relationship with McChrystal. Karzi’s relationship with this administration is formal and at arms length.
    That’s by design. This administration wants to limit direct political exposure to Afghanistan in general and Karzi specifically.
    All indications are that McChrystal’s people have a working relationship very few people inside this administration. My understanding is that military people and administration people are relatively isolated from each other. The two cultures have a very uncomfortable relationship with each other.
    Of course this doesn’t happen in a vaccum. Hate and disrespect are very much a part of the public discourse. McChrystal’s people allowed themselves to plug into that public hate. Active duty military and civilians within the administration cannot stoop to the level of degrading public discourse even if it is pervasive.

  • Charu says:

    The best strategy or tactics will matter little unless the elephant in the room, Pakistan’s dangerous duplicity, is addressed. Petraeus would do well to study Pakistan’s decades-long proxy war against India and to re-visit McChrystal’s strategy, which is doomed to failure because of Pakistan’s double-dealings. In the end, the only solution may be to carve out Pashtun territory from Pakistan and merge it with Afghanistan; giving the Pashtun nationalists a stake in repelling Pakistani Punjabi hegemony. A truncated Pakistan would then have to spend its energy in trying to keep Baluchistan and Sindh from breaking away, and give Afghanistan a well-deserved respite to rebuild their society.

  • kp says:

    As people now from my posts here I’m a rationalist and I laugh at conspiracy theories. But I was surprised and saddened to see these comments from an interview with The Guardian (a left of center paper in the UK).

    //www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/24/michael-hastings-general-mcchrystal-article

    Hastings says people should not be surprised by the Paris antics, particularly as it was McChrystal’s wedding anniversary. “These are a bunch of special forces guys, that’s what they do. People say I can’t believe they are drinking but who do you think is crazy enough to be fighting these insane wars for nine years [Emphasis added]

    Insane wars? I can see people thinking Iraq was an insane war but Afghanistan? That comment looks very like Hastings was gunning to taken down those behind “The War”.

    I wonder if he’ll embed or go into an other US controlled war zone again? Would you be watching his 6?

  • Civy says:

    Neo,
    I think your response provides good balance to mine. Karzi does have a working relationship with McCrystal, but I have to think that Karzi will rest much easier about the resolve of his US partners when he senses no rift between civilian and military leadership in their support of Afghanistan.
    I too am concerned about Petraeus burning out, but disagree he is only a strategist. He was very much hands-on in Iraq and can be again. I am more concerned that the perspective he brings to his current assignment will be lost, at least until he can find a successor, and return to head Central Command again.
    I also find it tragic that McCrystal, in a time of great national need, chose to destroy his career and deprive his country of his talents. It’s hard not to recall Patton’s example here. Perhaps he too will have an opportunity for redemption. I hope so.
    Finally, I have seen some speculation that Biden’s job may well go to Hillery Clinton in the next election. If that were to become true, given her depth in foreign affairs, and military matters in particular, it would make two Secretary of States in a row who had a major impact on military policy, as Condi Rice was the person responsible for championing Clear, Hold, Build, and had to drive Rumsfeld out of power to do so.

  • Neo says:

    It appears that Mr. Hasting has some experience at stirring up the stink. I thought this particular article was very telling: “Hack: Confessions of a Presidential Campaign Reporter” about his experiences on the compaign trail. //www.gq.com/news-politics/big-issues/200810/michael-hastings-newsweek-presidential-campaign
    His assignment for Newsweek was: “basically: Ride the buses and planes with the candidates, have big lunches and dinners on the expense account, get sources drunk and singing, then report back the behind-the-scenes story. I was supposed to follow whoever the front-runner was for the nomination, starting in the primaries and going right on through the general election.”

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis