Obama, McChrystal and the Afghan withdrawal timeline

Of all the things America didn’t need at the moment, a seemingly irreparable divide between President Obama and his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has to rank pretty highly. Yet, that’s just what we have following the release of some disdainful comments that McChrystal and his team made about the president and members of his administration to Rolling Stone magazine (read the article here — note that I’ve updated the link so that it goes to Rolling Stone’s own website … and be forewarned that it includes language we wouldn’t print in the AJC).

Perhaps we should have seen this coming. I defended McChrystal last September when he told “60 Minutes” that he’d had very limited contact with the president since taking command in Afghanistan. His comments then, I believe, were straight-forward answers to straight-forward questions. The Rolling Stone article appears to be another animal altogether. Americans have to be “disappointed” — to use McChrystal’s reported reaction to his first meeting with Obama — that a general leading a counterinsurgency effort that mixes politics and military strategy could be this careless about domestic politics.

It’s hard to imagine, or argue for, McChrystal surviving this episode. But the Washington Examiner’s Byron York raises a very important consideration for Obama in changing horses mid-stream:

Obama is in a bind with McChrystal. There’s no doubt Obama would be fully justified in firing his top general. But at the same time Obama has committed himself to a rigid timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Changing commanders could complicate that enormously. Right now, because of his own policy decisions, the president has no good choice.

The Obama administration has maintained all along that the withdrawal timeline is flexible. We may learn just how flexible it is as the president deals with this mess.

88 comments Add your comment

CJ

June 22nd, 2010
11:34 am

From Obama’s perspective there are no good options here. He’s damned if he fires McChrystal and damned if he doesn’t.

Ultimately nobody is indispensable, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama fires McChrystal either now or sometime in the coming weeks or months—whenever they feel that they have a suitable replacement.

Hillbilly Deluxe

June 22nd, 2010
11:46 am

One would think that to achieve the rank he has, Gen. McChrystal has to be somewhat of a political animal himself. Maybe he’s taking a calculated gamble that he can speak out and get away with it because of the timeline. It might work but others before him have found out that the Commander in Chief, rightly or wrongly, is always the Commander in Chief. You disagree with him publicly at your own peril.

The President has a bit of a connundrum here. If he fires McChrystal it may drag things out even longer and if he doesn’t fire him, he’ll be seen as weak. That’s what he gets paid for is to make decisions like that.

As for timelines in general, if I was running things, if I had a withdrawal timeline, I’d not be letting the whole world know that I had one or what it was. Keeping your enemy off-balance is one of the most important things in a conflict.

Betsey Dahlberg

June 22nd, 2010
12:24 pm

The General and his staff sound to me like 6th grade boys who have suddenly discovered the ability to shock the adults by using “bad” words. He may be a military genius, but I am not sure he is mature enough to be running this war.

neo-Carlinist

June 22nd, 2010
12:26 pm

First off, I think the war in Afghanistan is a waste of time, money and American lives, and I think the president needs to fish or cut bait – as opposed to his habit of doing both. McChrystal is a soldier. Obama, Jones, and “the administration” are politicians. Politicians start/wage wars, but soldiers do the fighting – and dying. Frankly, I am disappointed McChrystal felt the need to apologize, and I am glad he did not used the time-honored DC two-step line of; “my comments were taken out of context”. This is still America. McChrystal has the right to his opinions and I think the fact that McChrystal spoke with candor, and Rolling Stone published his comments serve as a nice examples the First Amendment in action. Let’s leave the bruised egos and outrage for Entertainment Tonight. McChrystal isn’t some 17 year-old pop star, celebrity, or athlete who must apologize because he offended someone. From what I know of him (and I know people who served under him), he is a straight shooter who doesn’t sugar coat the facts. I am glad he left the pol-speak to the smarmy CYA crowd in DC, and spoke the truth, as he sees it. I find it unfortunate Obama feels he needs to play good cop/bad cop to satisfy CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. And I hope the Commander-in-Chief speaks to McChrystal in a military tone, as opposed to political.

Pookadoprelanderschitzel

June 22nd, 2010
12:30 pm

I recommend Maj. Gen. James L. Terry, commander of the 10th Mountain Division, and a Georgia native, to relieve McChrystal.

Steve

June 22nd, 2010
12:31 pm

Maybe the President and the General are in cahoots on this. The General gives the President a reason to fire him, he gets fired, now the President can change the timeline (that was probably ill advised in the first place) for withdrawl without damaging himself politically. Just a thought.

Gordon

June 22nd, 2010
12:36 pm

McChrystal is a general who cares deeply about those who serve under him, and it must be very difficult for him to watch them be killed because of the ridiculous rules of engagement put in place by a group of left-wing idiots in Washington. He only verbalized what is becoming more obvious to anyone who is paying any attention at all: our flailing, failing president is in way over his head.

lmno

June 22nd, 2010
12:43 pm

There is no one left beating the war drums. When can we stop fighting?

I’ve never liked the idea that we should leave the war to the Generals. I never liked it, because in all my years I have yet to hear one General in history say, “We have enough troops” or “We should probably stop fighting now”. Its not in them. They always want more war. Its how they’ve been programmed.

Obama was elected in large part because we believed he could end these wars. So, why are we still fighting?

I would love to hear the President say, “The last of our American Troops are in route back home. We wish the best for those people over there, but there is nothign else we can do. Good luck to you all!”

Tyler Durden

June 22nd, 2010
12:46 pm

The Aghan War is a boondoggle and always has been. Regardless of the armies (US or Soviet) or leaders (Bush or Obama) or the internal players (Taliban, Karzai), you simply cannot move into someone’s country and attempt to change everything to meet your external agenda, expectations, or goals. It’s been tried and failed many times in many ways (Kosovo, Iraq in ‘91, the Mid-East, etc.). Hate to say it, but we won’t win that oen regardless of timeline.

America can’t afford to be the world’s police force, economically or politically. Yes, the Taliban is bad, and they’re part of a malicious group bent on hurting those they dislike. And something needs to be done, but not solely on our dime. Just as Hussein was a bad man, but we never should have invaded Iraq voluntarily and with no idea off how/when we’d be able to leave. Now our brave fighting forces are forced into a no-win situation in both countries. Highly unfortunate, highly regrettable, and highly unnecessary. If only we could hold those who CHOSE to take us into these situations accountable…

Ragnar Danneskjöld

June 22nd, 2010
12:50 pm

President Obama’s “problem” is that he is unacquainted with the needs of the military. Gen McChrystal’s “problem” is that he is either unacquainted with, or rejects, the wants of the American left. Looks irreconcilable, in that McChrystal is unlikely to pander to the leftists, and President Obama is unlikely to learn anything about national defense.

TehranDawg

June 22nd, 2010
12:53 pm

Gordon- Obama has done more in Afghanistan in 18 mos, than Bush did in 7 years. Drone attacks have killed more AQ members than Bush/Cheney ever dreamed of. With that said, he has to fire this guy. This is at least the 2nd time that he’s gone public criticizing the administration.

Tyler Durden

June 22nd, 2010
12:58 pm

Silly Ragnar, did Mom let you play with the computer again? You should stick to her instructions: it’s only for doing your homework or updating your Facebook fanpage for Adolf Hitler…

Bad Ragnar! Bad! No more silly bandz for you this week!

DawgDad

June 22nd, 2010
1:05 pm

Rolling Stone magazine??? And people are taking this seriously? Give me a break. What a bunch of loons we have in this administration and country, particularly in the media.

This is what happens when people elect a ruling class that doesn’t respect anything or anybody except their own selfish desires for power, and when they don’t have sense enough to tune out the captive media shills.

arnold

June 22nd, 2010
1:06 pm

I guess no one here remembers Gen. Douglas McArthur. Truman fired him and caught hell at the time. I think Obama has enough brass cojones to do the right thing.

Sick of Dems

June 22nd, 2010
1:07 pm

Way to go General McChrystal !!!!! Obama should be the one being fired. He’s an idiot on several levels and I think the General should take Obama and his cronies to Afghanistan to work for a month and let them see what they are up against and they might change their minds. We fight the war there or fight it here.

JF McNamara

June 22nd, 2010
1:10 pm

As far as I can tell, he disrespected someone higher in the chain of command than him. He needs to be given his walking papers. I’m pretty sure he’d do the same if a lesser ranking serviceman did it to him.

By the way, what is he whining about? He got his troops and he is executing his plan. He’s not doing his job well. Maybe he should be fired anyway.

DawgDad

June 22nd, 2010
1:15 pm

Look, if McChrystal really did publicly diss the President then yes that is a problem. I’m just saying I do not believe what I see reported in Rolling Stone and the Washington Post, the two sources I’ve seen on this. I don’t believe it at all. These are not trustworthy sources.

sam

June 22nd, 2010
1:19 pm

he’s a loose cannon and at this point a complete failure in afganistan..fire his goofy arse!

Kyle Wingfield

June 22nd, 2010
1:21 pm

DawgDad: McChrystal has apologized for the comments and hasn’t claimed any inaccuracies in the article. If you don’t consider RS a trustworthy source, then you might also ask why McChrystal allowed one of its reporters to spend a month tagging along with him in Afghanistan.

Horrible Horrace

June 22nd, 2010
1:27 pm

Yea…if we cant win this war by 5:00pm we are loading up the bus and going home.

Excellent strategy.

jconservative

June 22nd, 2010
1:37 pm

“McChrystal is a soldier.”

If this is correct, then McChrystal is a poor excuse for a soldier. See the following from the Uniform Code of Military Justice:

“888. ART. 88. CONTEMPT TOWARD OFFICIALS
Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
889. ART. 89 DISRESPECT TOWARD SUPERIOR COMMISSIONED OFFICER
Any person subject to this chapter who behaves with disrespect toward his superior commissioned officer shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

There is no way General Petraeus can let this go or Petraeus will lose all respect from his subordinates. Remember, McChrystal’s commanding officer is Petraeus, the CO of Central Command.

This is strike three for McChrystal. The “60 Minutes” interview and the London speech are strikes one & two. He must be out.

Gordon

June 22nd, 2010
1:42 pm

TehranDawg,

First of all, you make the mistake that many on the left do that criticizing Obama is implicit praise of Bush. To either I would say (and I think McChrystal would agree), either fight the war or don’t. Secondly, Afghanistan was not Bush’s top priority, Iraq was. Whether it should have been or not is another subject, but in the end we ended up with a lot more than we are getting in Afghanistan. It was who Obama referred to Afghanistan as the “important” war.

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lmno

June 22nd, 2010
1:57 pm

“Yea…if we cant win this war by 5:00pm we are loading up the bus and going home.

Excellent strategy”

Well, I stand corrected. There is at least one American left who still believes in these stupid wars.

If someone had been able to tell us 9 years ago that this would still be going on today, that almost no progress would have been made, that the middle east would still be a breeding ground for terrorist, that the afghan government would still be corrupt, that it would still be in extreme poverty and that even after 9 years no end would be anywhere on the horizon, do you think we would have supported this thing?

So, here we are, 9 years later and we are supposed to just accept, “We’ll just keep on fighting and fighting”. There is no way to win. There is no victory because there is no definition for what victory is. If we stayed and kept fighting for 25 more years, nothing will have changed. It would still be a corrupt government. Still a breeding ground for terrorism.

There is nothing our military can accomplish that will ever, (in one year, five years, or 100 years) that will ever remotely resemble a “win”.

jconservative

June 22nd, 2010
1:58 pm

“By the way, what is he whining about? He got his troops and he is executing his plan. He’s not doing his job well. Maybe he should be fired anyway.”

This statement is factually correct.
He is executing his plan. If the plan sucks he only has to look in the mirror. And so far it appears the plan sucks.

lmno

June 22nd, 2010
2:00 pm

There is something we could do though. We could build wells. Water wells. We could spend money and just dig wells where people don’t have access to clean drinking water. No fighting. Just digging. At least then maybe the people wouldn’t hate us so much.

When the taliban comes knocking and tells the poor dirt farmer that they will give his family a couple grand to strap a bomb to his chest to blow up Americans and that Americans are the evil in the world, maybe the farmer would at least think, “They don’t seem so evil. Afterall, they dig that well and asked for nothign in return”.

I would support a HUGE well diggging effort. All over the middle east and Africa. The Military could be used to defend the well diggers. Then they move to the next well.

If anyone attacked us while digging wells, the people would see them as the enemy.

Road Scholar

June 22nd, 2010
2:09 pm

R D: Other than Eisenhower, what US president since then has had an understanding of the needs for our troops?

All you Dawg posters: What are you doing now? Did you see the picture of Venezula dictator Chavez in a UGA hat? You are now all commies and socialists!

Wow , I’m amazed that the conservatives haven’t said that because Pres Obama is a Chicago thug, he will have McCrystal knocked off in Afghanastan!

Seriously Kyle, goood post; a fair assesment of a troubling development.

scrappy

June 22nd, 2010
2:23 pm

lmno – Can’t tell if you are being sarcastic, sad thing is your well digging war idea might actually work. What we are doing now certainly isn’t …

BADA BING

June 22nd, 2010
2:25 pm

Daddy, did you organize those communities that shot 52 people last wekend?

BADA BING

June 22nd, 2010
2:26 pm

All you Monday morning Generals sicken me. Why don’t you join and serve and then I may have some respect for the drivel you are putting out.

BADA BING

June 22nd, 2010
2:27 pm

And no, I did not serve, God had other plans for me. Still, I respect anyone that did.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

June 22nd, 2010
2:30 pm

Dear Road @ 2:09, “Other than Eisenhower, what US president since then has had an understanding of the needs for our troops?” Good question. Answer: Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. I don’t know how Ronaldus Magnus acquired his insight into needs of the military – maybe Cap Weinberger was his muse; his connection with the military was comparable to his connection with the American public. Both Presidents Bush presumably acquired their respective military affinities by being a part of the community, and I know the affection for each remains strong within the military.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

June 22nd, 2010
2:33 pm

Dear Badabing @ various times, my younger son serves on the Truman. I assume you have been reading the stories – strangely, exclusively in the international papers – about what the USS Truman is doing or, maybe more accurately, expected to do. Yes, of course I support his mission.

Tyler Durden

June 22nd, 2010
2:40 pm

Road Scholar has a good point: President lead the country and Generals lead the military, period. Apples and oranges (and no, Ragnar: Dubious W was as clueless about the Army as everything else; perhaps moreso) Dubious dropped out once they started drug testing pilots, and let’s not forget that he got favorable treatment to get that post in the first place. Jeez, Ragnar: isn’t it naptime yet?

Inmo: you’ve made a wonderful point here. Think outside the box, and do something purely positive for these people. It can’t work any less for them than our current plan :-)

neo-Carlinist

June 22nd, 2010
2:47 pm

Kyle, I seem to recall the apology was for “poor judgment”. Was the “poor judgment” in making the comments, or making them to a journalist from Rolling Stone? Either way, my feeling is, the apology was an order from a superior (Joint Chief Chairman and SecDef), but he certainly wasn’t apologizing for calling Eikenberg a “clown” or questioning the VP’s grasp of military tactics and strategy. And Ragnar, I don’t think it is a left/right issue so much as a politician/soldier issue. ALL politicians love to parse words and twist language, while doing so is the antithesis of a professional soldier. Political savvy may be an asset at McChrystal’s level, but he didn’t get where he is (and where he was; running Special Operations) by worrying about any politician’s agenda.

DawgDad

June 22nd, 2010
2:47 pm

Kyle, you wrote: “McChrystal has apologized for the comments and hasn’t claimed any inaccuracies in the article.” I have searched all over several leading Internet news sites and I have not seen McChrystal’s apology either in writing or a video clip. I see many news sources referencing his “public apology” but there’s NO EVIDENCE of his apology! The ABC news piece posted everywhere is shameless in this regard. All these links say “McChrystal apology” but there’s no apology!

I think this is a political hatchet job. Until I see evidence it is not, I stand by my belief. A lot of sources quoting third parties overhearing things McChrystal reportedly said.

Show me the evidence of his apology.

neo-Carlinist

June 22nd, 2010
2:59 pm

TehranDog, I don’t mean to split Military-Intelligence hairs, but how many of the successful drone attacks originated from Langley, VA (CIA), as opposed to the Pentagon (DoD)? Furthermore, if we’re enjoying such great success with the Predator, why the need for 30,000 more troops? This is a classic political war – Obama wants to keep the hawks happy, so he accepts McChrystal’s recommendation, and “surges” to the tune of 30,000, but in order to keep the “bring the troops home” crowd happy, he ramps up the para-military and special operations stuff.

DawgDad

June 22nd, 2010
3:01 pm

Here’s what I can find for a McChrystal quote: “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.” [FoxNews web site]. He fired his press aide that set up the Rolling Stone interview. Sounds to me like he’s apologizing for poor judgment in letting this interview and the resulting “profile” article happen at all, not for any remarks that may have been attributed to him.

Kyle Wingfield

June 22nd, 2010
3:06 pm

DawgDad: My only point in mentioning the apology was that McChrystal isn’t denying the quotes in the article. I don’t take him for someone who would back off his opinions. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

Rafe Hollister

June 22nd, 2010
3:06 pm

Dawgdad: There was an apology, no one made that up, improve your search skills. He apologized for making any comments. He did not apologize for what he said, which I infer means he thought the comments were truthful, he just should not have said them as sworn military officer.

Everyone should read Byron York’s piece in the Wash Times. A portion of it is above but he goes on and discusses the idiotic things that McChrystal has done in supporting OGolfA. How a soldier was killed the next day from a house he had asked McChrystal to tear down because it was a platform for terrorist attacks. How McChrystal told them to only patrol areas where the were less likely to find terrorists.

McChrystal should have had the cojones to tell OgolfA that he was a joke and that he was getting our brave men killed with his rules of engagement adn that he McChrystal was resigning as of today. That he was tired of having his hands tied and people dieing because of OgolfA’s liberal ideology.

Jefferson

June 22nd, 2010
3:15 pm

Make him a sargent.

The lord marshall

June 22nd, 2010
3:27 pm

A general cannot openly criticize the president he works for he. Its just plain dumb. That being said I guess he just couldn’t help himself. Everybody knows and thinks Obama is an incompetent. But no matter how incompetent Obama is the general should have known better.

sam

June 22nd, 2010
3:31 pm

maybe he realizes he’s not up for the job and is trying to get fired

Rafe Hollister

June 22nd, 2010
3:33 pm

I see on another site where 8 US Senators have sent a letter to OgolfA, asking him to not implement his backup plan to use an Executive loophole to issue Amnesty to the 10-13 million illegals here in America, should he fail to get the 60 votes in the Senate to pass his Amnesty Bill. What will this joker try next to get his agenda approved, inspite of its unpopularity?

neo-Carlinist

June 22nd, 2010
3:38 pm

Rafe, in which branch of the military did you serve? Please refer us all to the part part of the oath, or chain of command which deals with enlisted men asking Generals to blow up houses, which may or may not contain terrorists. By your logic, we should have invade Saudi Arabia in November 2001. And how ’bout W and “Rummy” not “blowing up” a whole bunch of terrorists (inclusing Ossama bin Laden) at Tora Bora in December 2001? We had him in our crosshairs, and he refused the request for 1500 Rangers, and “trusted” Pakistan to block the retreat from the East, which allowed bin Laden to escape.

Rafe Hollister

June 22nd, 2010
3:48 pm

Neo: I didn’t write the article, just reported what Yorke reported as a conversation related to him by the platoon mates of the deceased soldier. I was a civilian in DOD for 30+ years adn heard many suggestions and requests made to superior officers by enlisted personnel, almost on a daily basis. Often times the superior officer granted the request.

As for W and Rummy allowing Osama to leave Tora Bora, I will use your logic, how do you know you weren’t there? If the did they should have been impeached, they certainly did not get the job done. Anyone in authority not doing whatever is necessary to bring to justice these muslim extremists should be held accountable, including OgolfA, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, or MCChrystal.

rdh

June 22nd, 2010
3:50 pm

Could it be that Gen. McChrystal simply doesn’t want the job of losing a war that he was never allowed to win… a war that is probably unwinnable? NPR has done quite a few interviews with the people of Afghanistan. It is CLEAR that they do not believe that the U.S. can protect them. It is CLEAR that they do not believe that Afghanistan government forces can protect them. It is CLEAR that they believe that they will be killed… now or 10 years from now… if they cooperate with UN/US forces. The Taliban are going to be there to exact revenge… even if it takes 10/20/30 years of waiting. The U.S. CAN NOT WIN. The Taliban DO NOT CARE about Lithium or gold deposits. The Taliban only care about being the big fish in their little pond, and they are willing to kill all of the other fish in the pond, if necessary, to achieve that goal.

The evil in Afghanistan society simply outweighs the good.

Rafe Hollister

June 22nd, 2010
4:02 pm

rdh: I think you are right, McChrystal is frustrated with his hands tied and he doesn’t care if he is relieved, I just wish he had done it the right way and resigned in protest. Never looks good for a military man to lose sight of his obligations to support the commander in chief in public.

You are right about the people there being afraid of the Taliban. We could win if we had the proper attitude of taking ground and routing out the enemy, but it would require a sustained committment and many troops, something we could never expect from this administration.

Gramps

June 22nd, 2010
4:06 pm

Obama should consider the consequences of making an admired and respected Special Ops General a martyr. There are plenty of less powerful people already aligned against Obama. If McChrystal called for a rally in Washington, I would be on my way!

neo-Carlinist

June 22nd, 2010
4:16 pm

Rafe, correct, I was not there, but former CIA (Gary Berntsen, Gary Schoen), Delta Force (”Dalton Fury”), and British SAS operator(Andy McNab) who were there, claim he was. McChrystal’s predecessor Tommy Franks employed textbook “we can neither confirm nor deny” in a 2004 Op-Ed piece saying “we were not certain he was there”, but all involved confirm that bin Laden was heard (”triangulated” is the word I heard) on VHF radio on December 14, 2001. So, yeah, you got me. These three clowns conspired to sell books at the expense of Bush and Rumsfeld, and Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I am not suggesting officers do not listen to enlisted men, I simply took exception to your use of the word “idiot” to describe McChrystal’s decision to no blow up a house. If you worked for the DoD for 30 years, you know people die in combat. To base your claim (McChrystal has no cajones) because of the second hand observations of an anonysmous soldier, as “recalled” by the Washington Times, well, there’s nothing left to say.