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The fall of General McChrystal

General Stanley Allen McChrystal was chosen by his superiors from amongst his contemporaries and entrusted with the critical job of commanding the war against terrorism which remains of core importance to the United States of America.

McChrystal proved his mettle and obliged his superiors: he devised the war strategy for Afghanistan with President Barack Obama and other top security officials, and carried it out meticulously, whereby his efforts were commended by the American government and he also managed to gain Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government’s approval.
McChrystal, a true patriot who executed all the allotted tasks earnestly, had braced himself for hard times. His personal discipline regarding diet, exercise and sleep are acknowledged to be quite extraordinary – it is a known fact that he eats one meal a day, runs 11-13 kms per day and sleeps for four hours!

As happens with many who perform exceedingly well, evidently McChrystal as well, got too big for his boots, which led to the plummeting of his stardom. Sooner or later, one has to pay the heavy price for breach of conduct, or plain bigheadedness. The scandal involving detainee abuse and torture at Camp Nama in Iraq and the forged cover up story of the death of the soldier Pat Tillman were events that contributed to McChrystal’s downfall. However, the final blow came when McChrystal passed disparaging comments pertaining to President Obama and his team of advisors.

Those who make you can break you and McChrystal should have kept that in mind. His decline came when he trod on dangerous territory, enraging his superiors, leading to his resignation.

As Joe Klein wrote in his article “The Return of the Good Soldier” published in Time magazine, “It was the nature of McChrystal’s blunder that made the re-ascension of Petraeus inevitable.” General David Petraeus was designated the commander for the Iraq operation by President Bush. He was able to triumph in his assigned task but as President Obama’s reign commenced, he stated that the war in Iraq had been the wrong one and the one in Afghanistan was the right one as it had been home to Al-Qaeda and had been neglected by George W. Bush. However, McChrsytal’s passing offensive remarks on President Obama resulted in his removal from the post and Petraeus became the newly appointed commander for the Afghanistan war.

The question which surfaces is whether Petraeus will be able to fulfill the American agenda and succeed in winning the ‘war against terrorism’ and whether the doctrine of counterinsurgency will bear positive results as it did in Iraq under Petraeus.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates stated that Petraeus “played a historic role” and created the “translation of a great strategy into a great success in very difficult circumstances”. Gates also told Petraeus that he believed “history will regard you as one of our nation’s greatest battle captains”. America has high expectations from Petraeus.

However, it remains to be seen whether the appointment of Petraeus will facilitate America in realising its vision of victory in Afghanistan – whatever that may entail. As Shuja Nawaz stated in his article, “General Petraeus’ Reality” featured in Foreign Policy, that victory this time may well be an orderly disengagement for the United States and the prevention of the “descent into chaos” in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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