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McChrystal Versus White House Flame War Gets Ugly; McChrystal Summoned to DC

America’s top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and his closest aides, mocking vice president Joe Biden, calling National Security Adviser and former Marine general James Jones a “clown,” and questioning whether the war is winnable.

That’s according to a Rolling Stones profile of McChrystal due out Friday titled, The Runaway General. In it, McChrystal says his first meeting with President Obama left him “disappointed,” calling it a political stunt, a photo op by a White House eager to deflect criticism over Obama’s delay in urging an escalation of the Afghan war.

The story claims McChrystal seized control of the Afghan war "by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House." The general’s aides criticize administration envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke as weak, ineffective and on his way out; the death knell for a political appointee.

The most biting criticism was directed at Amb. Karl Eikenberry, who McChrystal aides accused of working at cross purposes with them and trying to cover his own ass if the Afghan war goes south. The tensions between McChrystal and Eikenberry are well known and this latest bit of ugliness will likely result in one of the two leaving Afghanistan.

McChrystal was quick to issue a statement from Kabul: "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.”"

Poor enough judgment to get himself fired? At the least, McChrystal and his aides are being insubordinate, that in itself could get him canned. The latest reports are that he’s on his way to Washington for damage control.

Marc Ambinder provides some back story that might explain why McChrystal, and more so his aides, would mock White Officials on the record to a reporter:

“He was tired of being the victim of what he believes is a concerted effort on behalf of Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and others to undermine everything he was given 18 months to do. He was tired of being perceived in the press as a neoconservative killer, Dick Cheney's hired assassin, or disloyal to President Obama and his staff. He was angry at being blamed for leaking the draft of his report to the President to Bob Woodward. (He did NOT leak the document). He was miffed that a large number of mid-ranking soldiers and battalion commanders and enlisted guys didn't support his strategy.

Even though McChrystal voted for Obama and told him so during their first meeting, he sensed that a number of senior White House aides didn't really believe that the former commander of the military's special missions unit during the Bush-Cheney years was suddenly on their side. National Security Adviser James Jones, who is a bit of cipher to McChrystal's team, may or may not have been one of these aides. No one in the West Wing bought all that liberal internet chatter about JSOC's alleged crimes -- but no one really didn't buy it, either.”

The fallout from this story could obviously be huge. During his election campaign, President Obama famously pushed the “no drama” mantra among advisers and staff. The pressures of Washington have brought out quite a bit of drama over the past year-and-a-half. Of course drama among campaign staffers is one thing. Drama between the top leadership of a long and bloody war that’s going rather poorly is quite another.

Are McChrystal and his close knit team looking for an out from what they see as a faltering war effort, with U.S. and European support for the war fast eroding? I sure hope not. I have been hearing rumors from folks in the special operations community that McCrystal does not want to be around when the July 2011 withdrawals begin.

From the Rolling Stones piece:

"Even those who support McChrystal and his strategy of counterinsurgency know that whatever the general manages to accomplish in Afghanistan, it's going to look more like Vietnam than Desert Storm. “It’s not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win,” says Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, who serves as chief of operations for McChrystal. “This is going to end in an argument.”
-- Greg Grant Show Full Article

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