(Reuters) – The White House has summoned the top U.S. general in Afghanistan to Washington to explain controversial remarks critical of the Obama administration, U.S. military and Obama administration officials said on Tuesday.
The move comes a day after General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, apologized for comments by his aides insulting some of President Barack Obama’s closest advisers in an article to be published in Rolling Stone magazine.
The controversy comes at an inopportune time for Obama, who already is dealing with huge BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, trying to get financial industry reform legislation through Congress and hoping to prevent Republicans from taking back control of Congress in November elections.
An Obama administration official said McChrystal had been directed to appear in person at Wednesday’s Afghanistan meeting at the White House “to explain to the Pentagon and the commander-in-chief his quotes in the piece about his colleagues.”
The military officials said McChrystal would be flying from Kabul on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear whether McChrystal would be ousted.
The Rolling Stone article, to be published on Friday, also quoted an aide describing McChrystal’s “disappointment” with his initial one-on-one meeting with Obama last year.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to McChrystal late on Monday and “expressed his deep disappointment with the article and with the comments expressed therein,” a spokesman for Mullen said.
Mullen is the top U.S. military officer.
“I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened,” McChrystal
said in a statement on Monday.
The Rolling Stone article, which quoted several McChrystal aides anonymously, portrays a split between the U.S. military and Obama’s advisers at an extremely sensitive moment for the Pentagon, which is fending off criticism of its strategy to turn around the nearly nine-year-old Afghan war.
It quotes a member of McChrystal’s team making jokes about Vice President Joe Biden, who was seen as critical of the general’s efforts to escalate the conflict and who had favored a more limited counter-terrorism approach.
“Biden?” the aide was quoted as saying. “Did you say: Bite me?”
Another aide called White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a retired four star general, a “clown” who was “stuck in 1985.”
McChrystal was quoted as saying he felt “betrayed” by the leak of a classified cable from U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry last year. The cable raised doubts about sending more troops to shore up an Afghan government already lacking in credibility.
McChrystal took command of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in June 2009 after his predecessor General David McKiernan was removed for what most experts interpreted as a sign Washington was losing patience with conventional tactics that failed to quell mounting violence.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who fired McKiernan, said on Sunday that McChrystal and other military leaders are confident that the campaign against Taliban insurgents, particularly in southern Afghanistan, is moving in the right direction.
Gates also said on Sunday it was too early to be able to say how many U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan and how quickly they would leave when a planned drawdown began in July 2011.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said over the weekend that the July 2011 drawdown date was “firm,” adding that Washington was seeing signs that the Afghan government was making headway on security.
ABC News reports that:
“President Obama recalled the top U.S. general in the Afghanistan War, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, following a magazine interview in which
McChrystal criticized several top U.S. officials and said he felt betrayed by the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.”
In a profile by Rolling Stone titled “The Runaway General,” McChrystal is characterized as an outsider who did not relate well with the administration, and as a military leader who was “disappointed” with his first meeting with the president.
The subhead of the story by Michael Hastings reads: “Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”
One of the article’s most disparaging remarks comes from an unnamed adviser to McChrystal, who described the general’s first meeting with Obama.
“Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was,” the aide said. “Here’s the guy who’s going to run his [expletive] war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The boss was pretty disappointed.”
In the article, McChrystal said the president criticized him for speaking too bluntly about needing more troops last fall.
“I found that time painful,” McChrystal said in the article. “I was selling an unsellable position.”
McChyrstal also said he felt betrayed by U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry for the ambassador’s criticism of Afghan president Hamid Karzai in a leaked cable.
McAuley’s World Comments:
The General is reported to have been strongly critical of the Obama’s Adminstration’s “rules of engagement”. Congress’s rules of engagement in the Vietnam War led to victory for the Communists in that Country. I posted the following in June 2009.
US Gen. McChrystal takes command in Afghanistan
KABUL – Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a four-star American general with a long history in special operations, took charge of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on Monday, a change of command the Pentagon hopes will turn the tide in an increasingly violent eight-year war.
McChrystal took command from Gen. David McKiernan during a low-key ceremony at the heavily fortified headquarters of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in central Kabul. McKiernan was fired last month by Defense Secretary Robert Gates one year into a two-year assignment.
McChrystal will command the largest international force ever in Afghanistan. A record 56,000 U.S. troops are in the country, alongside 32,000 forces from 41 other countries.
[The Vietnam War was lost by the Democratic politicans in control of Washington, DC, at the time. We are about to see history repeat itself]
U.S. troops battle both Taliban and their own rules
By Sara A. Carter Monday, November 16, 2009
KASHK-E-NOKHOWD, Afghanistan | Army Capt. Casey Thoreen wiped the last bit of sleep from his eyes before the sun rose over his
isolated combat outpost.
His soldiers did the same as they checked and double-checked their weapons and communications equipment. Ahead was a dangerous foot patrol into the heart of Taliban territory.
“Has anyone seen the [Afghan National Army] guys?” asked Capt. Thoreen, 30, the commander of Blackwatch Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment with the 5th Stryker Brigade. “Are they not showing up?”
A soldier, who looked ghostly in the reddish light of a headlamp, shook his head.
“We can’t do anything if we don’t have the ANA or [the Afghan National Police],” said a frustrated Capt. Thoreen.
“We have to follow the Karzai 12 rules. But the Taliban has no rules,” he said. “Our soldiers have to juggle all these rules and regulations and they do it without hesitation despite everything. It’s not easy for anyone out here.”
“Karzai 12” refers to Afghanistan’s newly re-elected president, Hamid Karzai, and a dozen rules set down by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal,
the commander of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, to try to keep Afghan civilian casualties to a minimum. [Rules devised and delivered by Washington Bureaucrats to General McChrystal for his implementation in the field]
“It’s a framework to ensure cultural sensitivity in planning and executing operations,” said Capt. Thoreen. “It’s a set of rules and could be characterized as part of the ROE,” he said, referring to the rules of engagement.
Dozens of U.S. soldiers who spoke to The Washington Times during a recent visit to southern Afghanistan said these rules sometimes make a perilous mission even more difficult and dangerous.
Many times, the soldiers said, insurgents have escaped because U.S. forces are enforcing the rules. Meanwhile, they say, the toll of U.S. dead and injured is mounting.
By mid-November, Capt. Thoreen’s unit had lost five soldiers to suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Many more had been wounded and three of their Stryker vehicles had been destroyed.
In his Aug. 30 assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, which was leaked to the press, Gen. McChrystal said that the legitimacy of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had been “severely damaged … in the eyes of the Afghan people” because of “an over-reliance on firepower and force protection.”
To succeed, he wrote, “ISAF will have to change its operating culture to pursue a counterinsurgency approach that puts the Afghan people first.” This entails “accepting some risk in the short term [but] will ultimately save lives in the long term.”
The Times compiled an informal list of the new rules from interviews with U.S. forces. Among them:
• No night or surprise searches.
• Villagers have to be warned prior to searches.
• ANA or ANP must accompany U.S. units on searches.
• U.S. soldiers may not fire at the enemy unless the enemy is preparing to fire first.
• U.S. forces cannot engage the enemy if civilians are present.
• Only women can search women.
• Troops can fire at an insurgent if they catch him placing an IED but not if insurgents are walking away from an area where explosives have been laid.
Without Afghan army or police, Capt. Thoreen and his troops were about to scuttle their mission: a house-to-house search for weapons
and insurgents in the poor Pashtun village of Kashk-E Nokhowd, combined with an effort to win over the village’s 200 residents by passing out toys, pencils and toiletries.
Finally, a small ragtag group of Afghan police arrived to accompany the Americans. The Afghan army was a no-show.
The police, some of whom who looked as young as 13 in their oversized uniforms, have a poor reputation in the local Maywand district for corruption and extortion.
“I’m guessing it was too early for the Afghan National Army to get up out of bed and help us out,” Capt. Thoreen said. “They’re probably still asleep. Unbelievable.”
“Is everyone accounted for?” he asked. “Let’s move — stagger your positions.”
As the sun revealed the Red Mountain of Maywand, the soldiers headed out the gate of combat outpost Rath with weapons ready.
They set up a security perimeter near a more than century-old British fortress, whose crumbling walls overshadowed the small outpost.
In 1880, British and Indian forces fought and lost a battle here against Afghan forces led by a girl named Mawali, a Pashtun interpreter told The Times. He asked that his name not be used to protect himself and his family from Taliban retribution.
“She told the men in the village that they were not men if they would not raise their arms to fight the enemy,” he said. “They were so embarrassed they went to battle and Pashtun farmers killed more than 6,000 British and Indian soldiers.”
The interpreter said this Pashtun Joan of Arc was buried not far from the village. On this day, however, there was not a woman in sight. Under the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islam, women are discouraged from appearing in public and are supposed to be shrouded head to toe in burqas.
So Cpl. Amy B. King, 42, a medic from Springfield, Mo.; Spc. Dionalyn O. Bird, 29, a cook from Bloomfield, Conn.; Spc. Toni Winkler, 20, a medic from South Carolina; and Sgt. Frevette J. Skelton, 31, a cook, entered the village with Capt. Thoreen’s men.
“We have the women say their names before we search them because sometimes it’s a man under the burqa,” said Cpl. King. “In some cases, there are weapons on them.”
“It’s OK for the insurgents to use their women to hide weapons but it’s not OK for us [men] to search them,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Yost, 27, of Shelton, Wash. “So now, we have to break our own rules and bring women into combat just so they can search the women.”
Dusty little faces peered over ancient salmon-colored mud walls as the Americans entered the village. The children giggled and pointed at the soldiers.
“Stop, don’t walk any closer,” the Pashtun interpreter told a farmer and two boys who emerged from the back of the old British fort. “Stop where you are.”
They kept walking in the soldiers’ direction but the soldiers did not raise their weapons.
“Stop,” the interpreter yelled again. “Don’t move.”
He then asked the man and boys to lift their traditional tunics to show the soldiers that they were not carrying weapons or explosives. Eventually, they were allowed to pass.
“Well, the bad guys know we’re coming,” said the interpreter, laughing. “They’re probably hiding their weapons by now.”
Some of the men squatting outside the mosque looked stoic. Others stared in anger.
In the mosque, the soldiers discovered a 9 mm handgun with clips.
A U.S. civil affairs officer, who asked that his name not be revealed because of the nature of his work, said only insurgents carry such handguns. “Everyone here has Kalashnikovs, very few have these,” he said.
The mosque’s imam, who gave his name as Sahed, walked alongside the U.S. soldiers down a narrow dusty road, followed by a gaggle of children.
“We need help getting clean water,” he told Capt. Thoreen through the interpreter. “Water is what is most important.”
Civilian aid workers and State Department officials rarely visit Maywand because of security concerns, so development work falls on the U.S. military’s shoulders.
“We have to be everything from the soldier to the engineer, water expert to medical care,” Capt. Thoreen said.
“We try to hire locals but first we need to secure the region,” he said. “We are not going to get the [nongovernmental organizations] out here until we do that.”
Imam: U.S. ‘needs to go’
Interviewed by The Times, Sahed the imam said U.S. troops were “respectful to his people and provided security.”
“I tell my people in the mosque to not become suicide bombers and to not kill those who want to help us,” he said.
However, asked about the presence of U.S. troops in his village, Sahed said they “need to go. Get out of Afghanistan or it will never be resolved. Between Islam and the infidel there can never be a relationship.”
“In my personal opinion, the Americans won’t be able to resolve this problem,” he added. “The longer they stay the more likely there will be another attack like Sept. 11. It’s only the Afghan people who will be able to resolve this problem.”
The next day, however, the imam visited the U.S. combat outpost for the first time, bringing a gift of homemade yogurt candy. He told Capt. Thoreen that he had asked his people to stop targeting the U.S. soldiers.
Capt. Thoreen said he appreciated the gesture but wasn’t sure whether the imam was telling the truth.
“To some degree we are trying to pull the people of Maywand back over,” he said.
“In some ways, we’re not just fighting for their security but our own and those of the ones we love back home.”
Then he added, referring to the rules of engagement that his forces try to observe, “For our guys, it’s tough. Sometimes they feel they have their hands tied behind their backs.”
Contacted by e-mail after The Times’ reporter and photographer had returned to the U.S., Capt. Thoreen described a clinic his unit had since hosted, which treated 75 locals including 20 women.
“It was a huge success. The people are becoming much more open and friendly,” he said. As evidence of that success, he cited a drop in IED attacks on his soldiers.
[We need to learn from the “true” lessons of Vietnam, lessons that included the fact that the Communists had inflitrated the South Vietnamese Government and disrupted supply, communication and cooperation between the U.S and South Vietnamese Armies. The National Afghan Army is only 5 years old and you can rest assured there are Taliban inbedded in its leadership. The politicians should confine themselves to the political questions, “Do we want to fight this war?”, Do we want to win this war?”. Let the Military Commanders devise the military strategy to achieve the desired political goals. Politicians have no business trying to devise specific military strategies …. The Politicians are not competent to do so ….. The choice is not between fighting this war or coming home, the choice is between fighting this war in Afghanistan or fighting this war at home]