Stan McChrystal recounts US roadblocks to Taliban manhunt
Retired Gen. Stan McChrystal relayed story of how US special forces in Afghanistan finally got their man, despite an intelligence blackout from D.C. Now a Yale professor, he spoke this week about that Taliban episode, WikiLeaks, and information-sharing with the public.
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Thanks to that cooperation, “He’s dead,” McChrystal concluded.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Fighting continues in Afghanistan
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Now a professor at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., McChrystal began his hour-long speech by remarking on what he called the “ironic” nature of his new job at the Ivy League school. “I couldn’t get in a school like that,” he told the audience, “but I grade their papers.”
McChrystal cautioned that what looks to Americans like a victory does not necessarily appear that way to the rest of the world, including Afghans. He cited the role that US funds played in helping Afghan insurgents buy weapons to drive out the Soviets in the early 1980s – which many Americans should inspire US loyalty among Afghans.
Conventional wisdom in the US is that, “They ought to be very thankful to us because we helped our Afghan brothers” against the Soviets, McChrystal said. But the war also left 1.2 million Afghans dead, which he estimated was proportionately equal to 15 million Americans “in today’s numbers.” An understandable view from an Afghan fighter’s perspective might be, “We fought them, how about a thank you” from the US government? McChrystal pointed out.
The same goes for Iran, added McChrystal, perhaps offering a glimpse into his teaching style at Yale. “What do Iranians think” of America? he asked his audience. McChrystal ventured an answer, “In 1953 we overthrew their government” in a CIA-backed coup and imposed a Shah who “turned out to be a despotic dictator.” He concluded, “It doesn’t matter what’s right or wrong.” What matters, he said, is perspective.
McChrystal also offered his own take on the Wikileaks release of Pentagon secret and classified reports and State Department cables. “The thing I hate about that is there’s a bunch of people who want to pull back” on information-sharing, and the WikiLeaks episode provides a good excuse to justify that. “As soon as they see WikiLeaks they think, ‘Great.’ ”
He called the decision by WikiLeaks to release the classified cables “unconscionable,” because Wikileaks staff members are unable to “evaluate that information” for the damage it might inflict on troops. But the leaks should not affect the impulse to share information among government agencies, and even with journalists who are reporting from the field. Occasionally, “You are going to pay some price for sharing,” McChrystal said. “But at the end of the day, it’s better.”