The firestorm sparked by the general responsible for creating and implementing President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan strategy has further set back US prospects in a war that was already on shaky ground.
Combat delays, rising casualties and new reports of Afghan corruption have led to growing skepticism in Congress and among the American public. The weakening, and possible firing, of Gen. Stanley McChrystal over disrespectful comments he made about Obama and his policy team has compounded the sense of peril.
However the McChrystal crisis ends, “much is different going forward,” a senior administration official said. “It’s hard to brush past it.”
McChrystal’s apparent disdain for his civilian colleagues, and the facts on the ground in Afghanistan, have exposed the enduring fault lines in the agreement Obama forged last fall among policymakers and military commanders.
In exchange for approving McChrystal’s request for more troops and treasure, Obama imposed, and the military accepted, two deadlines sought by his political aides.
In December, one year after the strategy was announced, the situation would be reviewed and necessary adjustments made. In July 2011, the troops would begin to come home.
Each side thought it had gotten the better part of the deal.
Many senior military officials considered the withdrawal deadline a bad idea and argued among themselves whether counterinsurgency, inherently a time-consuming roller coaster of a process, could be conducted on a clock.
But the new deployments, Obama concluded, would prove to allies and Afghans the depth of the US commitment; the timetable would compel Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his government to put their own house in order.
The president’s advisers agreed that significant progress toward the goals they had set putting the Taliban on the run, establishing a stable and competent government, and building Afghanistan’s own security forces to eventually take over could be achieved within a deadline.
“Several administration officials portrayed McChrystal’s comments, made this spring in the presence of a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine, as a reflection of “behaviour” rather than an unravelling of consensus around the war strategy.
Some speculated that what many consider his tactical brilliance did not translate well in Washington’s political arena.
Others said that after years of 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week warfare, one interlude in which he and his staff unwisely unwound had no bearing on McChrystal’s competence and commitment to the strategy.
US general meets Obama
Afghanistan war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal has left the White House after a closed meeting with President Barack Obama to explain his inflammatory remarks about civilian leaders. There was no immediate word on whether Obama would fire him. Before the meeting, two military officials said McChrystal went in prepared to submit his resignation.
Afghan govt backs general
Afghan officials said that firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal would disrupt progress in the war and could jeopardise a pivotal security operation under way in Taliban strongholds in the south. At the end of a one-hour video conference on Tuesday with President Barack Obama, Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his confidence in the top NATO commander, Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said.
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