Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gen. McChrystal In Hot Water Over Rolling Stone Interview: UPDATE: Offered Resignation

These are the kinds of comments that should lead to Gen. Stanley McChrystal's dismissal as head of operations in Afghanistan. McChrystal and his subordinates gave interviews to Rolling Stone magazine in which he made disparaging comments about the Obama Administration and other top officials.
In the magazine profile, unidentified McChrystal aides are quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden and Richard Holbrooke, the special U.S. representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The first victim in the growing controversy was the Pentagon's PR official who set up the interview with McChrystal. NBC reported that Duncan Boothby, a civilian member of the general's public relations team, was "asked to resign."

According to administration officials, McChrystal was ordered to attend the monthly White House meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in person Wednesday rather than over a secure video teleconference. He'll be expected to explain his comments to Obama and top Pentagon officials, these officials said.

President Obama was described as "furious" about the remarks while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told McChrystal of his "deep disappointment" in a conversation late Monday, a spokesman said.

Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he had confidence in McChrystal's ability as a general. However, he said the issue was whether the article would impact his ability to have a relationship with Obama and the rest of the national security staff.

Kerry, speaking on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown," described the remarks in the article as a "mistake" and "poor judgement" by the general and some of his staff. He declined to say whether McChrystal should step down.

These are the comments that should not be stated until one leaves office since the General is subordinate to the President and any disagreements he may have on policy should have been made through the proper channels.

McChrystal's administrative style has allowed his aides to openly challenge the official US policy in Iraq and questioned the very policy makers who are in charge.

That is insubordination and the White House has to take Gen. McChrystal to task for those comments and allowing the situation to present itself.

Still, for those who have followed McChrystal's background, it isn't surprising. Michael Yon, an independent journalist who has covered the Afghan and Iraq campaigns and has embedded with multiple units in both theaters of operation since 2001 found McChrystal to be wanting:
Yon believes the war can still be won, but that a change of command is in order. At this level of warfare, he says, "McChrystal is like a man who has strapped on ice skates for the first time. He might be a great athlete, but he's learning to skate during the Olympics." Yon adds that publicly denouncing the commanding general of a war is not an easy thing for him to do, especially considering it means crossing swords with General Petraeus and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, two men he greatly admires. Indeed, if anyone can turn this war around, Yon believes it is General Petraeus. He concedes such a return to the battlefield is unlikely, and suggests another general whose name fewer people have heard. "General James Mattis from the Marines. I get a good feeling about Mattis but I don't know. General Petraeus is a known entity and he is solid gold."
Not only is McChrystal is out of his element, but his management style has opened up a can of worms at a critical juncture in the Afghan war against the Taliban.

This is an unforced mess that President Obama must deal with forthwith, and it could mean a delay in his plans to reduce the size of forces in Afghanistan after 2011.

Much more fundamentally, the need for solid leadership at the highest levels of the Afghan theater of operations to keep the hammer down on the Taliban and to continue making progress against Taliban inroads requires a solid determination without distraction.

McChrystal and his staff has created a major distraction. That is intolerable.

McChrystal apparently saw an advance of the story that ran in Rolling Stone and didn't object to the piece. That puts his official stamp on the piece, and adds to his complicity in the remarks.
Eric Bates, the magazine’s editor, said during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that McChrystal was informed of the quotes prior to its publication as part of Rolling Stone's standard fact-checking process — and that the general did not object to or dispute any of the reporting.

Asked if McChrystal pushed back on the story, Bates responded: “No, absolutely not.”

“We ran everything by them in the fact-checking process as we always do,” the Rolling Stone editor said. “They had a sense of what was coming and it was all on the record and they spent a lot of time with our reporter, so I think they knew that they had said it.”

McChrystal describes his first meeting with the president as disappointing in the article, telling Rolling Stone that Obama came in unprepared.
The text of the interview can be read here.

According to Time, McChrystal apparently offered President Obama his resignation. Did the President accept it? Moreover, the situation in Afghanistan is affected in large part by the rules of engagement that the Administration and Pentagon have foisted on the guys on the front lines - in a bid to reduce the number of civilian casualties, but at the same time makes it much more difficult to root out terrorists and the Taliban from the midst of the Afghan population.

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