Afghanistan crisis over McChrsytal super gaff

It was all the fault of that  smoking volcano. Gen Stanley McChrystal, the  gung-ho US commander in Afghanistan found himself grounded and on a coach to Paris with a journalist from Rolling Stone, a mildly radical magazine. The career suicide note is a long but riveting read.  His may be the biggest US military sacking since McArthur.  Better that than the slow fade of LBJ’s generals Westmoreland and Abrams in Vietnam when they kept asking for just another few thousand troops more.

General Creighton W. Abrams, switched to counterinsurgency to thwart the guerrillas in the villages rather than continue to fruitlessly chase them in the jungle. “Abrams brought to the post a markedly different outlook on the conflict and how it ought to be conducted,” argued Sorley, switching from “search and destroy” to “clear and hold.”

Ah, so that’s where I heard  it all before…

What is it with these austere military types like McChrystal who boast of only sleeping four hours a night and eat one meal a day? So said his PR men who built him up and then dropped him in it from a great height. Like a missile from a drone you might say. So anyway he gets to Paris ” the most un-McChrystal-like of cities,” and he and his staff get ratarsed in Kitty O’Shea’s pub and blab.  So much for good judgment and four star military discipline. 

More seriously the interview shows a crumbling Afghanistan policy, presaged already by this week’s removal of the influential British envoy Sherard Cowper-Coles. As British fatalities reach 300, is McChrytal out there on his own with his faltering surge?  Beneath the beer- lite indiscretions, this feels like a crisis of confidence. Obama and Cameron should fess up fast.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London