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McChrystal Rolling Stone remarks spotlight Afghanistan withdrawal timeline

General McChrystal's Rolling Stone remarks, which were critical of US officials, have turned the spotlight on disputes over Afghanistan withdrawal timeline.

By Staff Writer / June 23, 2010

Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Karl W. Eikenberry, US ambassador to Afghanistan, brief reporters ahead of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit at the White House, in this May 10 file photo.

Charles Dharapak/AP


Kabul, Afghanistan

The furor over disrespectful remarks directed at the Obama administration by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff has already earned the man in charge of turning around the Afghanistan war a new moniker: the Runaway General.

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Today, the fallout from comments made to Rolling Stone magazine could make him the gone-away general and, some say, jeopardize a counterinsurgency strategy he helped craft. McChrystal flew back to Washington overnight for an emergency meeting with President Obama, who yesterday spoke of the general’s “poor judgment.”

Critics of the general argue that McChrystal is trying to box in Obama and challenge civilian supremacy over the US military. But others say his departure at a highly sensitive juncture could deal a severe blow to the war effort.

“McChrystal has been one of the most successful NATO commanders in the country in the past nine years and now he’s put in a strategy that is just being implemented,” says Waliullah Rahmani at the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies. “If there are any changes in the command, I think it will tend to affect and slow the strategy. It would be very, very negative.”

Whatever Obama decides, the row has put a spotlight on a debate that’s been bubbling along since before Obama committed the United States to a new counterinsurgency strategy here last December: How much time is enough time? And does hinting at limits to US patience encourage a better effort from Afghan politicians like President Hamid Karzai or simply send a message to the Taliban that they can run out the clock?

Eye on July 2011

In Kabul, Afghan officials and some average citizens are worried that the timer on the US commitment to Afghanistan is set to run down in July of next year. That’s when Obama says that he hopes to start withdrawing US troops and give more political and military responsibility to Mr. Karzai’s government.

Officials in Kabul say the article simply lays bare what’s been an open secret for a long time: a fairly poisonous atmosphere between McChrystal’s team and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, a former general here who argued against the surge, that’s making it difficult for the State Department and the military to work well together.