Within hours after today’s Rolling Stone story broke, McChrystal was called by the White House, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They were not happy. – Marc Ambinder
Gen. McChrystal has now been recalled to Washington to explain himself. It’s all very Harry Truman – Douglas MacArthur.
Via Marc Ambinder, who has written a terrific piece, comes an absolutely jaw dropping story about Gen. Stanley McChrystal (and his staff) unleashing a torrent of criticism aimed at his civilian leadership, starting with Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. That it is being printed in Rolling Stone and entitled “Runaway General,” especially after Tim Dickinson’s piece leveling devastating criticism on the Administration on the BP blowout, equals a one, two political punch from a stalwart liberal publication on a Democratic administration, this time leveled by a decorated military man.
A band of McChrystal’s profane, irreverent aides are quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden and Richard Holbrooke, the special U.S. representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
McChrystal himself is described by an aide as “disappointed” in his first Oval Office meeting with an unprepared President Barack Obama. The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start.
It includes a list of administration figures said to back McChrystal, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and puts Biden at the top of a list of those who don’t.
The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war “by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”
I’m just stunned.
Evidently so was Gen. McChrystal, because he’s already issued an apology even before the profile hits the stands. Via Danger Room:
“I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard. I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome.”
Regardless of the unintended consequences of the profile, if this apology saves him it will be a miracle.
As for the grim tidings –and I do mean grim– they come from a report called Warlord, Inc.: Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan, released by Rep. John F. Tierney, Chair Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Second paragraph of the intro letter:
The findings of this report range from sobering to shocking. In short, the Department of Defense designed a contract that put responsibility for the security of vital U.S. supplies on contractors and their unaccountable security providers. This arrangement has fueled a vast protection racket run by a shadowy network of warlords, strongmen, commanders, corrupt Afghan officials, and perhaps others. Not only does the system run afoul of the Department’s own rules and regulations mandated by Congress, it also appears to risk undermining the U.S. strategy for achieving its goals in Afghanistan.
Sect. Clinton is quoted in bold saying, “And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money,” which comes from her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on December 3, 2009. Tierney’s report paints those words in bold.
A few of the findings of Rep. Tierney’s report are below. “HNT” stands for Host Nation Trucking, which is “the principal contract supporting the U.S. supply chain in Afghanistan.”
- The principal private security subcontractors on the HNT contract are warlords, strongmen, commanders, and militia leaders who compete with the Afghan central government for power and authority.
- The Highway Warlords Run a Protection Racket.
- Protection Payments for Safe Passage Are a Significant Potential Source of Funding for the Taliban.
- Unaccountable Supply Chain Security Contractors Fuel Corruption.
- Unaccountable Supply Chain Security Contractors Undermine U.S. Counterinsurgency Strategy.
- The Department of Defense Lacks Effective Oversight of Its Supply Chain and Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan.
- HNT Contractors Warned the Department of Defense About Protection Payments for Safe Passage to No Avail.
The more you read the worse it gets.
Security for the U.S. Supply Chain Is Principally Provided by Warlords
Finding: The principal private security subcontractors on the HNT contract are warlords, strongmen, commanders, and militia leaders who compete with the Afghan central government for power and authority. Providing “protection” services for the U.S. supply chain empowers these warlords with money, legitimacy, and a raison d’etre for their private armies. Although many of these warlords nominally operate under private security companies licensed by the Afghan Ministry of Interior, the warlords thrive in a vacuum of government authority and their interests are in fundamental conflict with U.S. aims to build a strong Afghan government.
There is no definition of “success” to be found from reviewing the report. Maybe someone else can offer some light, but as someone who has been for Obama’s Afghanistan policy, I just don’t see this ending well at all, if ever ending.
However, the only thing likely to get any attention is Gen. McChrystal giving a possible career ending interview.
Afghanistan is killing us in so many different ways. It makes my realist vein throb.
This post has been updated.