With General Stanley McChrystal relieved of his command of the
International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, the
55-year-old's career appears effectively ended. It's worth taking a
moment to look back and ask how McChrystal, who also played an essential
role in Iraq as the head of the special-ops umbrella organization Joint
Special Operations Command, will be remembered. Here are the first
takes on his legacy.
- Represents 'New Breed' of Military
Commander The New York Times' Dexter Filkins writes,
"McChrystal, a fellow at both Harvard University and the Council on
Foreign Relations, brought a formidable intellect to the elusive
complexities of Afghan tribal and ethnic politics. And he labored to
explain the rationale -- through the press to a public increasingly weary
of war and skeptical of the effort in Afghanistan -- behind his strategy
based on counterinsurgency."
He emphasized the need to win
over the Afghan public and focus the fighting on the Taliban heartland
in the south. He withdrew troops from peripheral areas and publicly
announced military operations well before they began. ...
issued directives ordering his troops to drive their tanks and Humvees
with courtesy, and he made it more difficult to call in airstrikes to
kill insurgents because they risked civilian casualties. When his troops
killed women and children, General McChrystal often apologized directly
to President Hamid Karzai and to the Afghan people.
- Controversial Restrictions on Lethal Forces The New York
Chivers explains that McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy means
less airstrikes and artillery, which makes things more difficult for his
troops. "As levels of violence in Afghanistan climb, there is a
building sense of unease among troops surrounding one of the most
confounding questions about how to wage the war: when and how lethal
force should be used."
- Creative Counterinsurgency Genius The Harvard Business Review's
Bruce Nussbaum gets a little carried away. "Counterinsurgency is a
creative act and McChrystal is the Frank Gehry of modern warfare," he
writes. "McChrystal spent his entire career in the most creative sphere
of the military, its Special Operations. First as a Ranger, then as head
of the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq, McChrystal moved in
the edges of military circles where an approach and package of methods
and tools was developed that corporations and consultants recognize as
- For Afghans, Just Another General Foreign Policy's Thomas Ruttig sighs, "For
most Afghans who usually do not read Newsweek or the Rolling Stone, The
General was just another general saying what other generals have said
before. What reason could they have that he would actually change
- Liberal, Gay-Friendly Special Forces 'Ninja' The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder writes,
"McChrystal was a hard core operator, aggressive as hell, a JSOC ninja
-- but he was also a social liberal who tolerated, nay, welcomed gay
people into his inner circle, who disdained Fox News, and who grew
increasingly frustrated with his reputation as Dick Cheney's hired
assassin. ... If you think about it, the special forces is the
quintessence of democratic (and maybe Democratic) ideals -- rank and
position based on merit, guaranteed health care, labor protection for
civilians. And acceptance of gays."
- Ended the Reliance on Air
Strikes Wired's Noah Shachtman explores
the "radical shift in the approach to Afghanistan." "McChrystal issued
strict guidelines forbidding air strikes except in the most dire
circumstances. The number one priority in Afghanistan, he declared, was
to secure the population so normal life could resume. The US needed to
rob the militants of popular support, he argued. Dropping bombs only
disrupted lives and drove people into the arms of the Taliban. So
civilian casualties from air strikes had to stop -- immediately." This
"hasn't been easy."
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