McChrystal sheds light on resignation in memoir
Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in his new memoir, says the choice to resign as U.S. commander in Afghanistan was his own.
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Speaking publicly for the first time since he resigned, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal takes the blame for a Rolling Stone article and the unflattering comments attributed to his staff about the Obama administration that ended his Afghanistan command and Army career.
“Regardless of how I judged the story for fairness or accuracy, responsibility was mine,” McChrystal writes in his new memoir.
The Rolling Stone article anonymously quoted McChrystal’s aides as criticizing Obama’s team, including Vice President Joe Biden. Biden had disagreed with McChrystal’s strategy that called for more troops in Afghanistan. Biden preferred to send a smaller counterterrorism and training force, a policy the administration is considering as it transitions troops from the Afghan war.
McChrystal adds that the choice to resign as U.S. commander in Afghanistan was his own.
“I called no one for advice,” he writes in “My Share of the Task,” describing his hasty plane ride back to Washington, D.C., hours after the article was published in 2010, to offer his resignation to President Obama. McChrystal was immediately replaced by his then-boss, Gen. David Petraeus.
McChrystal devotes a scant page-and-a-half to the incident that ended his 34-year military career and soured trust between the military and media. The book comes out Monday.
The closest McChrystal comes to revealing his regret over allowing a reporter weeks of unfettered access with few ground rules comes much earlier in the book. “By nature I tended to trust people and was typically open and transparent. ... But such transparency would go astray when others saw us out of context or when I gave trust to those few who were unworthy of it.”
He does try to explain the tensions that helped lead to Obama’s decision to accept his resignation. At the center was the wrangle over McChrystal’s recommendation for 40,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan — and conflicting guidance.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates told McChrystal to request the number he thought he needed. White House staff signaled that the newly elected president wanted to keep the levels down.
McChrystal describes how he presented his war goal as “defeat the Taliban” and “secure the population,” and was advised to lower his sights to “degrade” the Taliban.
Obama approved the addition of 30,000 troops, while simultaneously announcing a withdrawal date of 2014. McChrystal did not challenge those decisions, though he says he worried the timetable would embolden the Taliban.
“If I felt like the decision to set a withdrawal date would have been fatal to the success of our mission, I’d have said so,” he writes.
As for the Rolling Stone fallout, a Pentagon inquiry into the magazine’s profile cleared McChrystal of wrongdoing and called into question the accuracy of the June 2010 story. The review, released in April 2011, concluded that not all of the events at issue happened as reported in the article.
Rolling Stone issued a statement saying it stood behind freelance writer Michael Hastings’ story, which it called “accurate in every detail.”
There is no bitterness or score-settling with the Obama administration staff that had pushed for his departure over the article. McChrystal and the White House moved beyond the matter, and first lady Michelle Obama invited McChrystal to serve on the board of Joining Forces, a White House initiative for troops and their families.
The Pentagon review process delayed the release of the book, which had been scheduled to come out last month.
McChrystal said he “accepted many suggested changes and redactions, some reluctantly, particularly where public knowledge of facts and events has outpaced existing security guidelines,” to “keep faith with the comrades I had served alongside.”