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

  • Total

    “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.

    • richrad brownfield

      i guess u r an african american dude….?

    • Huskerlabrat

      Opening your mouth to a reporter and not keeping in mind what you say and how long you say it will get you quoted at length. Been there, done that. Stupid move by a good general.

  • Total

    “did not sustain discipline…” Sorry.

  • Bob

    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?

    • J.R.

      Information flow

    • William

      I don’t think anyone was talking to the reporter–the report overheard it.

  • Byron Skinner

    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.

    ALLONS,
    Byron Skinner

    • William C.

      Byron, for God’s sake would you please shut up about “wingers” and “winger think tanks” you damned insane liberal. General McChrystal deserves better than this, and doesn’t deserve the smear job he is getting.

      Petraeus is a capable general however, and I trust he will do his best. Yet I fear Petraeus will encounter the same red tape and political nightmare in Washington. You can’t win a war out of Washington…

      As far as his health goes, I doubt there is any cause for serious concern. He was dehydrated and I can’t blame the man for nodding off during a Senate Hearing anyway…

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/AyeGuy AyeGuy

        Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.

  • LeeRet Army

    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.

    • Rick W

      Dead on target there Lee.

  • pedestrian

    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.

    • yule brenner

      no ****, you think the taliban will try to kill our hvi’s???? oh my goodness! that changes the entire war strategy!

  • Jimbo Lee

    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…

    • Marine Veteran

      “Faux” news?…..those who watch Faux news, and only Faux news, are idiots.

      Many, many on the “right” advocate prolonged foreign engagement, in undeclared wars, fighting for vague objectives, to achieve an ill-defined victory. In the meantime, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines die needlessly.

      Signed,

      Marine Veteran

      • William C.

        “Faux” news? You liberals still using the same boring nonsense? Go back to watching the state approved MSNBC propaganda network you leftist fool.

    • William C.

      Ironic isn’t it? Dear leader Obama isn’t what he expected.

  • Reyes Munguia

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

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/AyeGuy AyeGuy

      Stormin’ Norman the Spec Ops hater? You really need to read up about that dinosaur before you idolize him.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Afternoon Folks,

    Think the election of 1864 here.

    ALLONS,
    Byron Skinner

    • William C.

      But McChrystal isn’t running for President, and comparing Obama to Lincoln is laughable at best.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/AyeGuy AyeGuy

        Right, because Obama compares himself to Jesus Christ instead!

    • Ken Badoian

      1864 – McClellan lost. I do not think McChrystal will do the same. Too much baggage, but, I could be wrong. it seems that Mc and Mac General Officers have a knack of not understanding that the President is the commander-in-chief.

      McClellan ignored a visit from the President and went up-stairs to bed.

      Could it be that Stan knew what he was doing and was firing for effect? Fox will probally shot down his trial balloon.

      Is he retiring or did he just resign from his command.

      Do not think many readers will get your 1864 analogy. History tends to repeat itself every two or three generations. Mac wanted to cross the Yalu, Mc crossed the Rapohack (spelling) and besides being Bobby Lee’d he thought he was out numbered.

      Fair winds and a following sea

      Old Salt – USN Ret.

  • Kayaker

    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.

    • bob whiley

      yeah let’s mention his middle name again so he sounds like a muslim so we can vilify him that much easier! didn’t nostradamus predict that hitler and stalin would have a child together named barack? ohmigod!
      stick to logical commentary, not slanted criticism.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/AyeGuy AyeGuy

        Yeah! What have the muslims ever done to us! It’s all our fault!

    • Nathan

      Please substantiate your claims.

    • Day

      what would give you the right to impeach the a man who has broken no law and has been installed in the whitehouse through due process by a majority of US citizens. you obviously have no respect for democracy or the constitution. ther is a word for what you have proposed, i believe its FASCISM.

    • Marine Veteran

      Nice….way to “chum the water” with your bitter rhetoric…

      How old are you? Are you old enough to serve? Are you serving? Did you serve? Do you have a son who is “draft age”?

      The point is, “K”, are you ready to lay your life on the line to achieve “our efforts in Afghanistan”? Can you even articulate what “our efforts” are? I doubt it.

      In fact, you seem like soooooo many posers on this website who are quick to rattle their sabre, yet are either too old to serve or never did serve or who don’t have the rocks to go sign up and serve now…to support “our efforts”.

  • Tim

    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!

    • Nadnerbus

      I shouldn’t, but I’ll bite anyway.

      For what are you planning on impeaching Obama? Which laws has he broken that would warrant the incredibly politically destructive process of removing him from power? That kind of talk was inane when the left was saying it of Bush, and it is just as inane now. Impeachment was not included in the Constitution as a political bludgeon to use against your idealogical opposites, but as a tool for removing leaders that disregard and usurp their powers granted therein.

      I am not a fan of Obama or his vision for this country, but I have too much respect and reverence for the institutions of this nation to see them twisted for political gain. That is a game that will just as surely be used against you.

      • Paul

        Well he is getting close to a maybe impeachment. He is sueing Arizona in a Federal lawsuit. Just because he doesn’t like the imagration law. He is such a wimp, plus where are the states rights??

    • TMB

      I’m curious Tim to hear what your qualifications are to question the competence of either McChrystal or Petraeus to know whether one is better at fighting the Afghan war over the other.

    • Marine Veteran

      To another guy without a clue as to how the military culture really works.

      1) Generals are “there” to carry out the orders of their superiors, i.e. the President. If the President decided unilaterally to begin a withdrawal from Afghanistan there is absolutely nothing Congress or any service member could do about it, except to salute, and carry out the order.
      2) In a very “real” way, it matters less who the U.S. has running the Afghan campaign, than who the Bridgade, Regiment, Battalion, and Company commanders are actually on the ground prosecuting the tactical war. Gen McChrystal is gone; General Patraeus is in, life will continue with barely a hickup.
      3) General (and that’s what he’s called) Patraeus has the skills to succeed within the political parameters set by our nation’s leaders. That’s right, the General works for the politicians…

      • praetorian

        I thought the president cannot go to war unless the congress approves ??
        And if the congress does not approve its just a police action ??
        just a question, i know it has no bearing on this topic.

  • JarodL27

    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

    • doober

      That’s a good point!! And I hope the case.

    • TMB

      According to the RS article, some of those rookie mistakes were made after everyone had a few drinks. Loose lips and all that…

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jmcalli jmcalli

      I think he’s about to enter the world of retirement.

  • Brian Mulholland

    “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?

  • fired420

    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

    • Nathan

      Because if we are seen to be uncivilly blasting civvies it is going to make it that much easier to convince them that they should create a stable government that is hostile to terrorism? Brilliant! Someone give this man a commission.

      • Nathan

        uncivilly should have been unnecessarily.

    • Marine Veteran

      You need to do some further research into the history of modern warfare….

      No, wait, I’ve got it……you were just “chumming the water” to get a rise out of people.

      Hey, not bad.

  • blight

    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…)

  • Alpha10Engrs

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

    • Marine Veteran

      …read about Lincoln’s leadership during the Civil War. He went through Generals one after the other until he found Grant. In the meantime, he “fired” many.

      Why? Because in one way or another, those Generals, who work for their Commander in Chief, were found wanting.

      President Obama did the same thing.

      • William C.

        Except Obama has no grasp of military strategy whatsoever and fired McChrystal due to comments made in a magazine, not McChrystal’s performance elsewhere…

      • praetorian

        Ya, I think your reaching on that one. President Obama did what he had to do, and thats fine. The general stepped out of line. But he was not found wanting in his abilities
        as a general.

  • SpecOps

    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!

    • TMB

      That same oath also said you’d follow regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice which includes the Article that tells you to keep your mouth shut about your superiors in public. Whether you like Obama or not (and you obviously don’t), GEN McChrystal screwed himself.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/jmcalli jmcalli

      I think the “enemy within” is you!

  • roland

    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.

  • Replaceable Hero

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

  • Walter T

    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.

  • backinmyday

    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.

    • Brenden

      Typically peoples lives are not at stake.

  • backinmyday

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

  • Garry Owen

    Who let Rolling Stone into Afghanistan in the first place?

  • Dieter Braun

    You do not switch horses in midstream!

  • 609Gunner

    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.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/AyeGuy AyeGuy

    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.

  • William

    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.

  • cdrwest

    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!

  • Don bishop

    MAYBE THE COMMANDER AND CHIEF SHOULD HAVE SOME MILITARY EXPRIENCE TO UNDER STAND WAR!

  • Reyes Munguia

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

  • B.M.E.

    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.
    B.M.E.

  • http://stdtestingchicago.webnode.com Ricardo

    There is only one way in existence to deal with
    chronic hives, or to completely stop acute hives from showing.
    Current pregnancy prices and STD figures show this to be
    true. This can take anyplace from 5 to 10 times.