General McChrystal gave a Rolling Stone Magazine freelancer unprecedented access to the every day life of fighting the war in Afghanistan. Apparently, the writer ‘came, saw, listened and wrote’ and McChrystal is now the target of Obama’s wrath for some very cheeky and disrespectful remarks he and his top senior aides made. McChrystal will face his Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at a meeting of the administration’s monthly Security Team meeting – today. By the way, Rolling Stone tells us that McChrystal voted for Barack Obama. See an important update below.
The writer of the Rolling Stone piece, Michael Hastings, accompanied McChrystal to an out-post in the Kandahar area of Afghanistan. A 23-year-old soldier had just died as he entered a booby-trapped home.
Unit Commanders sought permission to blow-up the property, and that permission was denied:
One soldier at the outpost showed Hastings, who was traveling with the general, a written directive instructing troops to “patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will have to defend yourself with lethal force.
During a tense meeting with Ingram’s platoon, one sergeant tells McChrystal: “Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we’re losing, sir.”
This from Washington Post writers Londono and Shear (linked above):
McChrystal has championed a counterinsurgency strategy that prioritizes protecting the population as a means to marginalize and ultimately defeat the insurgency. Because new rules sharply restrict the circumstances under which air strikes and other lethal operation that have resulted in civilian casualties can be conducted, some soldiers say the strategy has left them more exposed.
So as McChrystal let loose, and let fly, we know our troops are not fighting a war, rather they are commanded to “win the hearts and minds of the locals” and they are dying at an astonishing rate. Is this the way McChrystal wants to fight this war, or is this his best effort considering restriction placed on him by the Obama administration?
We ask what McChrystal was thinking when jokes were made about Joe Biden (who is uniquely qualified to be joked about), when he said meeting with Obama was “disappointing,” the President of the United States was “unprepared,” and is quoted saying National Security Adviser Jim Jones is a “clown,” “stuck in 1985.”
We are told McChrystal is “uniquely qualified” to lead our troops in that mean country, but is Barack Obama “uniquely qualified” to command McChrystal?
The article, titled “The Runaway General,” appears in the magazine later this week. It contains a number of jabs by McChrystal and his staff aimed not only at the President but at Vice President Biden, special envoy Richard Holbrooke, Karl Eikenberry, the ambassador to Afghanistan, and others.
McChrystal described his first meeting with Obama as disappointing and said that Obama was unprepared for the meeting.
National Security Advisor Jim Jones is described by a McChrystal aide as a “clown” stuck in 1985.
Others aides joked about Biden’s last name as sounding like “Bite me” since Biden opposed the surge
The media is calling for his head. Senator John Kerry, just minutes ago said nothing is more important than our mission in Afghanistan, and he advises everyone to stay cool and calm for at least a couple of days. In other words, he seems not to recommend an immediate firing. He is not alone in his opinion.
In a day and time when 17 Afghanistan pilots can be brought to the U.S. and allowed to disappear into the heart of America, and the administrative arm of the U.S. Air Force sees it as an “immigration” problem, I think we have a huge problem. Winning the hearts and minds of Muslims in a Muslim country centuries behind the rest of the world, who hang 7-year-old-boys is not going to happen. What was and is Stanley McChrystal thinking?
So what do you think? Will McChrystal be fired or only humiliated? Who knows, maybe McChrystal will quit. I think he is beyond frustrated. Any real soldier would be.
Update 6-22-12:55 a.m. EDT:
Generals run war according to the Rules of Engagement (ROE) written for a specific engagement. So if things are not going swell in Afghanistan, who wrote the rules of engagement? It appears that McChrystal and the Pentagon came up with winning the hearts and minds of the people, perhaps after Obama made it clear that that was his goal.
U.S. forces have been told to exercise extreme
caution before ordering airstrikes.
By exercising so much restraint, the U.S.
military may sacrifice a key firepower advantage on the battlefield and
expose ground troops to more risk, some officers and analysts say.
“There is a tradeoff,” said Col. Gian Gentile, a
former battalion commander in Iraq who has publicly criticized
counterinsurgency doctrine. “You reduce civilian casualties, but you
potentially increase your own casualties.”
Doug Macgregor, a retired Army colonel and
military historian, says the emphasis on having conventional forces
trying to win over the population is futile.
“You surrender whatever military advantage you
have by compelling the U.S. conventional soldier or Marine to fight on
terms that favor the enemy, not the American soldier or Marine,”
From George Will June 20, 2010, tells of Officers requesting permission to hit a location, and that permission being denied – Americans died:
“There were villagers laughing at the U.S. casualties” and “two
suspicious individuals were seen fleeing the scene and entering a home.”
U.S. forces “are no longer allowed to search homes without Afghan
National Security Forces personnel present.” But when his unit asked
Afghan police to search the house, the police refused on the grounds
that the people in the house “are good people.”
Another example from Will, when a unit asked for artillery fire on an enemy position and that request was denied, they asked for permission for a “smoke mission,” firing an “illumination round” that shows an enemy position.
This request was granted — but because of fear of collateral damage,
the round was deliberately fired one kilometer off the requested site,
making “the smoke mission useless and leaving us to fend for ourselves.”
Sweetness and Light posts the entire Rolling Stone article. The following seems to shed a lot of light on the “rules of engagement:
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
And this look at McChrystal’s viewpoint in September 2009:
“What I’m really telling people is the greatest risk we can accept
is to lose the support of the people here,” Gen. Stanley McChrystal told
CBS’s “60 Minutes” in an interview aired Sunday night.
people are against us, we cannot be successful. If the people view us as
occupiers and the enemy, we can’t be successful and our casualties will
go up dramatically.”
So the question is, how’s that working out for you? We know how it’s working out for the troops.
Related and Background:
Obama Repeats Mistakes in Afghanistan: Purposeless Engagement
Reaganite Republican with a round of what others are saying.
Caught Him with a Corndog has a Jeff Duntz perspective on what McChrystal did and is doing.