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The embattled general: Stanley McChrystal

The commander of US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has upset the Obama administration with his criticism of President Barack Obama and his advisers.

General McChrystal has criticized the Obama administration in a Rolling Stone article

General McChrystal has criticized the Obama administration in a Rolling Stone article

Stanley McChrystal is just as tough on himself as he is on his troops. The four-star general eats only one meal a day, does not smoke or drink. The fact that he made some careless statements in an interview with the magazine "Rolling Stone" doesn't fit in the picture of a man who knows that his every word will be analyzed carefully. McChrystal also knows how to express himself politically correctly when it comes to sensitive moral issues, as in this excerpt from an interview with the German public broadcaster ARD:

"For example, if an insurgent element is firing at a German patrol from a house and that patrol was in a position and they had the ability to bring close air support over artillery, in a conventional military sense, it might make sense to strike the building and kill the insurgents and solve that problem. But if you think beyond that and you think that the insurgents may in fact get into that building, a family may be there, and the insurgents’ whole purpose may be to draw your fire to that house, causing you to kill civilians and a huge resentment then in fact in a moral sense it is mistake to strike that house."

General McChrystal speaks while taking command in Afghanistan

General McChrystal speaks while taking command in Afghanistan

Gulf between Obama and McChrystal

The general recently admitted that his comments on Obama and his advisors had been a mistake and publically apologized for it. Yet the remarks have resulted into a deep gulf between him and the president.

McChrystal was apparently deeply disappointed following his first meeting with Obama in the White House shortly after his appointment as commander of the Afghanistan mission. Instead of an exchange of information, it was merely a short photo op and the president was not interested in him. At any rate that was how an aide to McChrystal was quoted in the Rolling Stone article.

President Obama addresses troops and military personnel at Bagram Air Base during a visit in March

President Obama addresses troops at Bagram Air Base in March

There have been differences of opinion between him and Obama in the implementation of the new strategy for Afghanistan too. McChrystal’s call for more US troops in Afghanistan was accepted by Obama but only after some hesitation.

Afghan mission


McChrystal took command of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan in June 2009 in a bid to give a fresh and sensitivity driven start to the mission in Afghanistan. In his inaugural speech McChrystal also chose his words carefully:

"Each of us, from rifleman to regional commander, from village to city, must execute our mission with the realization that displaying respect, cultural sensitivity, accountability and transparency are essential to our critical task of gaining the support and trust of the Afghan people."


An American soldier patrols the streets of Kabul

An American soldier patrols the streets of Kabul

55-year-old McChrystal came into the spotlight during the Iraq war, as he presented America’s success story to world journalists every day. But McChrystal was also in charge of a secret operation, as head of an elite force, called the Joint Special Operation, which was hunting terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is considered a brilliant strategist and has worked as the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.

As ISAF commander McChrystal is President Obama's top soldier in Afghanistan. And it is there, not in Washington, where he seems to have the most support right now. In a statement, an Afghan government spokesperson in Kabul said that President Karzai believed McChrystal's exit from Afghanistan would disrupt the efforts to bring peace and stability in the war-torn country.

Author: Daniel Scheschkewitz / du
Editor: Grahame Lucas



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