McChrystal delivered grim report on Afghanistan before being sacked

The Independent reports that just days prior to General Stanley McChrystal’s forced resignation of command of the ISAF in Afghanistan for insulting comments by him and his staff that were directed at top Obama administration officials, McChrystal delivered “a devastatingly critical assessment of the war against a ‘resilient and growing insurgency.'”

Using confidential military documents, copies of which have been seen by the IoS, the “runaway general” briefed defence ministers from Nato and the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) earlier this month, and warned them not to expect any progress in the next six months. During his presentation, he raised serious concerns over levels of security, violence, and corruption within the Afghan administration.

The Independent provides a synopsis of the report:

General McChrystal said progress in the next six months was unlikely. He raised serious concerns over levels of security, violence, and corruption within the Afghan administration. Only five areas out of 116 assessed were classed as “secure” – the rest suffering various degrees of insecurity and more than 40 described as “dangerous” or “unsecure”.

Just five areas out of 122 were classed as being under the “full authority” of the government – with governance rated as non-existent, dysfunctional or unproductive in 89 of the areas. Seven areas out of 120 rated for development were showing sustainable growth. In 48 areas, growth was either stalled or the population were at risk. Less than a third of the military and only 12 per cent of police forces were rated as “effective”.

A strategic assessment referred to in the presentation revealed just how close the strategy in Afghanistan is to failing. It stated that the campaign was “on track temporarily” – but this was defined as meaning that there was “a low level of confidence that positive trends will be sustained over the next six-month period”. It also said the Afghan people “believe that development is too slow” and many “still generally mistrust Afghan police forces”. Security was “unsatisfactory” and efforts to build up the Afghan security forces were “at risk”, with “capability hampered by shortages in NCOs and officers, corruption and low literacy levels”.

The Independent claims that it was McChrystal’s sober report, and not the comments reported in Rolling Stone, that led to his dismissal, as the report “provided an uncompromising obstacle to Mr Obama’s plan to bring troops home in time to give him a shot at a second term, according to senior military sources.”

Whether that is true or not, and everyone seems to be looking for a political angle to McChrystal’s dismissal, the contents of the report cannot be ignored. There are few seasoned Afghan watchers who believe that NATO can dramatically turn Afghanistan around in the next year. The appointment of General David Petraeus, the hero of Iraq, as McChrystal’s successor has given many hope that the tide can be turned. But he will have to wrestle with the same operational restrictions and short time frame for success that McChrystal did.

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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  • bob says:

    Well, I read the piece today, and again, these kinds of wars boil down to how much you want to win. We just have to keep selling it to Joe Public, and we can buy enough time to get that 25% effective ANA to 90%. But I fear we’ll draw down when we’re winning, just like in Nam- with hindsight, I think you could make a great case for having held on south east asia in 1969. If we keep holding on, there’s only more bad news ahead for the takfiri extremists.

  • T Ruth says:

    SomeGuy was definitely on to some thing in his comment to Bill’s original story on McC/RS. Read his comment here
    I was lead to The Independent news article by Ravi Rikhye’s blog at // dt 27 June. Another great perspective to the episode. Blog is titled
    Is this the story behind the McChyrstal story?
    In summary, it appears that the General was shouting himself hoarse, but no one in DC was listening to him. The Independent says
    ‘He pinpointed an “ineffective or discredited” Afghan government and a failure by Pakistan “to curb insurgent support” as “critical risks” to success. “Waning” political support and a “divergence of coalition expectations and campaign timelines” are among the key challenges faced, according to the general.’
    I cannot even begin to imagine the pressure McChrystal was under WITHOUT those critical risks.
    And with those risks factored into the McChrystal Ball, with little being done by Obama’s “team” to support him, he was smart, foresightful, to press the eject button.
    Every one of those risks remain unaddressed and are being translated into reality now, Petraeus or no Petraeus.

  • kp says:

    Don’t forget The Independent is the most anti-war of the “quality” papers in the UK. They were the most dead set against Iraq and have long been “get the UK troops out of Afghanistan”. Keep that in mind when you read their articles.

    For example see the leader running in the same issue:


  • Civy says:

    Given that the largest 5 cities in Afghanistan contain less than 10% of the population, vs almost 60% for Iraq, it looks like we will need to make some adaptations to Clear, Hold, Build. Building an effective network of militias that can gather intel, deny movement, provide a credible defense until help arrives, and morph US/NATO forces into an excellent rapid-response force to backstop those, suggests itself very strongly.
    Except for urban areas, big, slow, cumbersome MRAPs are not compatible with this mission, at least not without attendant light, fast-movers to scout, probe, flank and harass. Something like a militarized version of the Polaris RANGER RZR 4, with ceramic and composite angled armor, set up for a 2 man crew would be much more appropriate.
    Using MRAPs and Strykers in Afghanistan is a bit like the US Navy trying to get everything done with just main battle ships. There’s a reason cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and PT boats were developed. No reason an MRAP couldn’t carry or tow a few of these things on an elevated, armored trailer to provide ad-hoc mobility. The best defense to IEDs is to stay off predictable routes – IE: roads.
    I think any effort to provide a fast, flexible response to backstop militias or COPs is going to have to address the current lack of high-speed, lo-logistics ground responders that can be carried, towed, flow, or driven into the battle. At 1,300 lbs (130 lbs less than the original spec for the WW-II Wileys Jeep), such a platform can be loaded out with fuel, ammo and lightweight armor and still be bulk, not weight-limited for chopper or Osprey transport.

  • BraddS says:

    The MSM has already decided on the story, and it is this: “We’ve already lost, so it’s just a matter of how many more casualties we want to take before we withdraw”.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    I guess I’m a little confused about this July 2011 withdrawal timetable given this development from the G20 summit this weekend: //

  • Armchair Warlord says:

    Reading the Independent’s story yesterday, I suspect that it was fabricated. Secret documents, no-name sources, political angles, one-paper reporting, etc. In particular some of their statistics on security appear to have been lifted wholesale from the report on Afghanistan this April.
    If they want to be credible they need to produce the documentation.

  • madashell59 says:

    This does not surprise me. I thought it odd that a high ranking officer would be so dumb to make such comments or let his staff make such comments to Rolling Stone reporter. McCrystal was on his way out and the deal was that he had to do something contreversial so that Prez Obama can act like he is in charge.
    Not that having Patreus back in the game is a bad thing. My guess is that some officers are better at straight out battles then at intel games and visa-versa. I am sure that the 2011 pull out date does not help matters on many levels also. The concern I have is that Prez Obama will see the pull out date as the only thing that may help him win a second term.

  • Civy says:

    It would be nice to think that McChrystal’s intent in throwing in the towel in the way that he did was to set someone up, Petraeus as it turns out, for success.
    If the mid-term elections go the way I expect they will, getting reelected will be made more likely by Obama striking a more hawkish tone than he has so far.
    The mid-term elections may well give him political cover, visa-vie his left-leaning base, to take such a tone, so don’t expect that to happen just yet, but expect it by early next year.

  • Neo says:

    “McCrystal was on his way out and the deal was that he had to do something contreversial so that Prez Obama can act like he is in charge.”

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @Neo. I think that’s exactly what happened.

  • bob says:

    Well, looks like Petraeus said it better than me when I said its about how much you want to win, neatly calling Afghanistan a “test of wills.” Once again, military and politicians must show a united front, which should go beyond private disagreement…

  • Charu says:

    McC’s sacking is a red-herring. No counterinsurgency strategy could ever work when the insurgents were protected, funded and advised by a neighboring state. McC shot-off his mouth in a typical cowboy manner and deserved to be fired; ’nuff sed. However, with Karzai looking to cut a deal with Pakistan, the US and other ethnic groups in Afghanistan stand to lose. All that fighting and dying will have been in vain, and the long forgotten main goal of this war (now and before the foolish detour into Iraq) to prevent Afghanistan from becoming again a state-sponsor of terrorism will be left by the wayside. Ironically, it is Pakistan that is the greatest sponsor of terrorism today, and from the very (9-11) beginning of this conflict.
    I predict that following the inevitable US retreat, history will just repeat itself with bloody civil war between the Pashtuns and the other ethnic minorities in Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance will be reconstituted, and there will eventually again be a stalemate. The Pashtuns will then seek AQ and undercover Pakistani military support to try to defeat the NL. Emboldened, AQ will use this protection to bring the war to the US once again… the more things change the more they remain the same. Sad!


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