It's not enough to fire General McChrystal for his latest public act
of insubordination. It's time to fire the entire Afghanistan strategy.
How can Congress possibly appropriate an additional $33 billion to a
General who does not believe in the mission, the Commander-in-Chief or
the administration officials he so obviously holds in contempt? The
answer is obvious: it can't.
There are two possible explanations for this latest McChrystal rip at
the Obama administration in the soon-to-be-released issue of Rolling
Stone: either he is out of control, cracking under the pressure of
a failure with his name all over it, or he has decided he needs to
engage in a new round of media manipulation to weaken the hands of the
administration figures he disdains and blames for setbacks to his
strategy. Either way, the President needs to fire McChrystal now. But he
also needs to recognize that this latest debacle is further evidence
that it is time to fundamentally change course. If he is unwilling to do
so, Congress needs to say "no" to the administration's $33 billion
Supplemental Appropriation request when it hits the floor of the House
this week or next.
McChrystal's closest advisors speak openly in the article that they
do not believe the war in Afghanistan is winnable. Here is how
McChrystal's Chief of Operations told Rolling Stone's Michael
Hastings that the war in Afghanistan is going to end: "'It's not going
to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win' said Major
General Bill Mayville, 'This is going to end in an argument.'"
As Hastings writes: "So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in
creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the
military: perpetual war." And that is what key figures in the military
have in mind, notwithstanding the president's commitment to begin
withdrawing US troops in July of next year. According to a senior
military official in Kabul: "There is a possibility that we could
ask for another surge of US forces next summer if we see success here."
Another surge? Without a clear exit strategy from
Afghanistan - and 96 Members of Congress are demanding one by co-sponsoring
legislation sponsored by Jim McGovern in the House - senior
military leaders are conducting operations in Afghanistan as if
escalation, not withdrawal, could very well be in the cards. And why
not? McChrystal backed the administration down before, why not again?
McChrystal began his campaign of public pressure on the Obama
administration by leaking his demand for 40,000 additional troops to Bob
Woodward of the Washington Post when President Obama was
reviewing his war policy. Then there was the public repudiation of Vice
President Biden and his preferred strategy at the International
Institute for Strategic Studies in London. When asked if he could
support a presidential decision to rely on a counterterrorism approach
to defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan, as Vice President Biden advocated,
McChrystal replied "The short, glib answer is no."
McChrystal publicly threatened insubordination if the Obama
administration did not toe the line and give him exactly what he was
demanding. It worked: he not only kept his job, he got everything that
Where has McChrystal's strategy led us? What he once described as a
"model" operation in Marja, General McChrystal now describes as "a
bleeding ulcer." The Pentagon's latest quarterly report to Congress on
the war confirms that the insurgency in Afghanistan is expanding its
operations and increasing in sophistication. Efforts to strengthen the
Afghan National Army have been stymied by "high attrition and low
retention" of recruits. Meanwhile, according to the Pentagon report, the
insurgency has a steady and growing supply of fighters: "A ready supply
of recruits is drawn from a frustrated population where insurgents
exploit poverty, tribal friction and a lack of governance to grow their
McChrystal has become increasingly worried about the consequences of
Americans paying attention to the failing war. A Senior Advisor to
McChrystal told Rolling Stone, "If Americans pulled back and started
paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular."
Congress needs to pay attention. They can start by heeding the advice
of Andrew Wilder of Tufts University, who told Hastings that handing
over the cash McChrystal wants for his failing operation in Afghanistan
will only make things worse: "Throwing money at the problem only
exacerbates the problem."
It's time to stop the manipulation, the insubordination and the
military dreams of endless war in Afghanistan. Fire McChrystal and then
fire the strategy.