Will the Afghan War Suffer From McChrystal’s Ouster?

What’s lost with Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s ouster? The most innovative battlefield commander the U.S. has ever had, say former colleagues who worked with him there and in the super-secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

A commander who truly grasped both the value added of new sensors and information networks and intuitively understood the organizational changes required of a hidebound military to best exploit it.

During his five years at JSOC and his truncated command of ISAF, McChrystal flattened hierarchies, empowered subordinates and everywhere pushed a freer flow of information between operators and analysts, between commanders and their units and even between oftentimes distrustful allies.

“He had better battlefield situational awareness than any other commander out there,” one former operator told me. McChrystal, who spent much of his career in the “black” special operations world, understood that the best weapon to fight terrorist and insurgent networks was another network, and he put those networks in place in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world.

Those personal networks McChrystal built up during his time in the black SOF world, “special mission unit” commanders that he knew and had worked with for years, he brought with him to Afghanistan; some who still commanded SOF units, others who now commanded units among the general purpose force.

Those crucial human networks were bolstered by a legion of analysts and techno geeks who were given the most advanced IT systems in the inventory by virtue of McChrystal’s control of a near limitless budget and ability to procure outside the military’s traditional acquisition system that operates at a glacial pace.

McChrystal knew the military has plenty of “shooters”; where he really worked to change the organization was not the pointy end of the spear, but rather the “shaft of the spear,” a former colleague of his told me. He sent his liaison officers all over the battlefield, not only to mine information from often widely dispersed units, but also to share information his command received from higher, national level intelligence sources, such as CIA informants and NSA signals intel.

Before McChrystal took over ISAF, there was a huge reluctance among U.S. units to share information with NATO allies. He put an abrupt end to that practice and pushed information out to the point of pissing off a lot of people.

“McChrystal was all about information flow,” the former colleague told me, “he wanted his command to function like a Google or Microsoft, always innovating, always moving information.” And, unlike most commanders in the conventional military, he had the resources to do it.

The huge jump, some described it as “orders of magnitude,” in high-value targeting effectiveness McChrystal achieved in Iraq and then Afghanistan may never be known, it’s all top secret. Those who do talk about it in do so in generalities and hushed tones with awe and a respect for a commander who they say instinctively grasped warfighting in this new world.

Will incoming ISAF commander Gen. David Petraeus be able to maintain those networks McChrystal built? It’s going to be difficult, I’m told, as those networks are human, not technological. He’s likely the only person that stands a chance of building on the work McChrystal has already done, as Petraeus mentored McChrystal and the two had a very close personal and professional relationship.

Some of McChrystal’s closest cadre, seasoned veterans from America’s wars, will leave Afghanistan and will suffer professionally because of a magazine article. Those who remain will respect Petraeus and accept the change, while never forgetting the contributions of Stanley McChrystal.

— Greg Grant

32 Comments on "Will the Afghan War Suffer From McChrystal’s Ouster?"

  1. "Some of McChrystal’s closest cadre, seasoned veterans from America’s wars, will leave Afghanistan and will suffer professionally because of a magazine article"

    They'll suffer because the General sustain discipline, either his own or that of his subordinates, NOT because of a magazine article.

  2. "did not sustain discipline…" Sorry.

  3. The article makes him sound like he walked on water. If that was the case why were he and is staff shooting their mouths off to a reporter, from The Rolling Stone no less?

  4. Byron Skinner | June 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Reply

    Good Morning Folks,

    Since General Petareus was General Mc Chrystal’s boss I’m sure he can do the job. I know that most of you won’t believe this but Generals are replaceable and way back when some even managed to get killed on the battlefield so institutionally the US Army has a great deal of experience at replacing field commanders.

    Since General Mc Chrystal’s staff has admitted to knowing about or being part of this act of gross insubordination I would expect to see a lot of replacements like we seeing with the staff of the CMC who with the knowledge of General Conway went to winger thinks tanks and asked them to publicly support the purchase of the EFV. The Marines were ratted out by the wingers. In a fortnight President Obama has created a lot of new opportunities in the three and four star General ranks.

    The big question is what about the health of General Petraeus. There has been a lot of off media discussion about the health of General Petraeus since his Senate black put.

    Byron Skinner

  5. The General should have known better than to do what he did. I cannot believe he and his staff were that unprofessional in front of the press the comments they made are fine behind closed doors amoungst peers blowing off steam. I hate to say this but he and his staff are going to get what is coming to them. He would not tolerate that kind of behavior within his command. He should have read a little bit about Gen. McArthur.

  6. I will predict Taliban may engage in a propaganda for demoralization, for this incident resulting in Gen. McChrystal to step down. However, CENTCOM is in the position to counter such propaganda by Gen. Petraeus to be in charge which the terrorists' nightmare of Iraq with terrorists defeated will once again gain attention by the public. I will also predict Taliban will try to attempt to assassinate Gen. Petraeus through all methods possible.

  7. This 4-star is big lefty nut who voted for Obama banned FoxNews in his headquarters. Oh wanted to run for el Presidente! I guess he'll live in exclusion to reaccess his life, he might start watching FoxNews after all, LOL…

  8. Reyes Munguia | June 24, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Reply

    I would like to know what Stormin' Norman thinks of all this.

  9. Byron Skinner | June 24, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Reply

    Good Afternoon Folks,

    Think the election of 1864 here.

    Byron Skinner

  10. Its time to IMPEACH Barrack Hussein Obama from the White House. It doesn't matter who is in charge over in Afghanistan. With the kind of idiot that is running the United States now, our efforts in Afghanistan will be in vain. We need good leaders not politicians and appeasers.

  11. General's are there to win wars. Not to "explitive"ing make the president seem like a hero. McChrystal was the only person who could win the war in Afghanistan. Now we will surely lose the war in Afghanistan. Iraq and Afghanistan are two different places. Patraues is a great guy! But he doesnt have the mentallity to win in Afghhanistan.

    Impeach Obama!

    puck the folititions!

  12. Is it possible that he is returning to the 'black ops' world and this was the 'most convenient' way to facilitate this? A general with this much street cred wouldn’t make a rookie mistake by pratting to a two bit magazine! There is more to this than meets the eye surely

  13. Brian Mulholland | June 24, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Reply

    "We need good generals not politicians and appeasers."

    I take it the increasing effort made in Afghanistan since the current Administration took over is your notion of appeasement, Kayaker?

  14. let us start fighting this war,it is a war,a war is mean and nasty .Take these ROE.s dump them and let our warriors fight to win.If they are hiding in pakistan,cross border raids ground and air,lets get the job done and stop all this nonsense

  15. Hopefully McChrystal is "fired" by being sent back to Afghanistan to take command of special forces troops. Promote someone else to command CENTCOM and make Afghanistan his sole responsibility. Promote someone proven from the ranks in Afghanistan to serve as his second. Promote someone up itching for a star in Iraq to run things on that end (or McMaster perhaps…)

  16. Alpha10Engrs | June 25, 2010 at 1:55 am | Reply

    I bet George Washington and Abe Lincoln are spinning around in their graves.Impeach Obama!Long live the"keg party"

  17. This Osama Obama is ruining this nation. As a retired Army senior NCO we are losing good men for stupidity and senior officers over bruised ego's.

    If Obama can't man up and swallow his ego and needs to retaliate against military people, we are done for.

    Then again, he's a raving Islamic in sheeps clothing anyways, no big surprise there.

    The oath I tool said to defend this nation against all enemies foreign and domestic.

    I think we now know who the enemy is within!

  18. I think it's not who will replace who is important . What is important is these guys should have shifts command post because the war in Afghanistan could be difficult and they need some time off too.

  19. Replaceable Hero | June 25, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Reply

    Come Election year we need to do some fireing of our own

  20. These 'former colleagues' …… are they the ones who were drunk doing a can-can immitation in a Paris bar while Mr. McChrystal was flipping them the 'bird'?

    Real class act while our Soldiers and Marines in A-Stan lack water and supplies.

  21. In what universe can you talk bad in public about the boss in public and not get fired? This has nothing to do with ego.

  22. Good riddance, this man is as crazy as an out house rat.

  23. Who let Rolling Stone into Afghanistan in the first place?

  24. Dieter Braun | June 25, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Reply

    You do not switch horses in midstream!

  25. Discipline isn't about mollycoddling politicians, it's about being trusted to get the job done. We don't live in Stalinist Russia where badmouthing the glorious leader gets you sent to the gulag. Stanley McChrystal is the best commander out there and should not be replaced because of his personal views, even if he was daft enough to tell them to a reporter.
    I honestly believe that the war effort is worse off without him.

  26. I don't understand what all the confusion is about.

    Once you understand that Obama's main goal is the weaking of America in any way possible, everything he does is quite clear.

  27. McChrystal sounds like he is an open, honest, approachable leader. His downfall was that he was open and honest and said something he shouldn't have within earshot of a reporter.

  28. Remember the US general officer that the 1940s German General Staff feared most? The politically incorrect, shoot-his-mouth-off, unconventional George Smith Patton III. When he was given Third Army and told to take Germany, he could only be slowed down by restricting his tank fuel. Obama should realize HE is the incompetent here and that he and his band of draft-dodging bozos should stand aside for the professionals in the rough and tumble world of winning wars. One either fights to win or fights to lose and we got it wrong here. Obamination, indeed. Congrats, towelheads, Hussein's got your back!


  30. Reyes Munguia | June 25, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Reply

    I would like to know why in the article Ret. Gen. Jones and now iin charge of the NSA was referred as " the clown"

  31. I haven't said a word out loud since the first gulf war when I said "to win & keep it won we
    should leave no bricks unbroken". I lost some friends for that & only one ret. col. knew
    why I said it. These wars are far more complex than the first one. It's not winning this
    one but preventing the next that counts. There is no officer among these orderless folk
    to sign a treaty.

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