Daily brief: Gen. McChrystal awaits his fate
Event notice: join journalist Stephen Grey and Peter Bergen today at 4:00pm EST for a campaign assessment of Helmand and Kandahar — details and RSVP available here (NAF). Bonus AfPak Channel reads: Grey’s assessment of the British campaign in Helmand ("Anatomy of a disaster"), and the British government’s response ("Hope in Helmand") (FP, FP). Reading ...
Event notice: join journalist Stephen Grey and Peter Bergen today at 4:00pm EST for a campaign assessment of Helmand and Kandahar -- details and RSVP available here (NAF). Bonus AfPak Channel reads: Grey's assessment of the British campaign in Helmand ("Anatomy of a disaster"), and the British government's response ("Hope in Helmand") (FP, FP).
Event notice: join journalist Stephen Grey and Peter Bergen today at 4:00pm EST for a campaign assessment of Helmand and Kandahar — details and RSVP available here (NAF). Bonus AfPak Channel reads: Grey’s assessment of the British campaign in Helmand ("Anatomy of a disaster"), and the British government’s response ("Hope in Helmand") (FP, FP).
Reading the riot act
After yesterday’s bombshell Rolling Stone profile of top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff caused the general to be recalled to Washington to explain the mocking remarks in person, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and later President Barack Obama will meet with Gen. McChrystal this morning (Atlantic, AJE, BBC, FT, Independent, McClatchy, The News, Guardian, CBS). Obama, who was reportedly furiously "angry" at the profile, said Gen. McChrystal "showed poor judgment" and wants to speak with him face-to-face before making any decisions about whether to fire the Afghanistan commander (ABC, White House, WSJ, Tel, Reuters).
Gen. McChrystal, who reportedly told an Obama administration official that he "compromised the mission," is said to have prepared a resignation letter and is ready to deliver it if the president has lost faith in him, and speculation is of course rife (ABC, NYT, FP, Politico, CNN). The White House, which wants to be prepared if Obama decides to let Gen. McChrystal go, has reportedly asked the Pentagon to put together a list of possible replacements (CNN). Potential successors include his current no. 2 Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, Joint Forces Command head Gen. James Mattis, and Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who runs the NATO training mission for Afghanistan’s security forces (AP).
Though the Rolling Stone profile did not demonstrate any significant policy differences between the general and the administration, analysis of the effect this episode, and Gen. McChrystal’s potential removal from the top Afghan post, has flooded the news — main themes include the state of civil-military affairs, merits of the Obama Afghan policy and counterinsurgency, the general’s specific role in the conflict, and conditions on the ground in Afghanistan (NYT, LAT, AJE, Wash Post, WSJ, ABC, Wash Post, LAT, McClatchy, NYT). To round it out, the NYT considers the parallels between Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. McChrystal, and Reuters looks at Gen. McChrystal’s past "missteps" (NYT, Reuters).
The reactions: Afghan politicians rallied around Gen. McChrystal, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai calling him the "best commander" and a person of "great integrity," while NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Rolling Stone piece is "unfortunate, but…just an article" (AP, Pajhwok). Gates’ statement was sharp, saying the general made a "significant mistake" (Pentagon). The Taliban, for their part, are said to be jubilant at the apparent divisions within the U.S. mission, commenting, "If they don’t leave Afghanistan in the coming years most of their soldiers will die or go crazy" (Times).
The reactions, cont.: Duncan Boothby, the McChrystal aide who arranged the interviews, offered his resignation and was let go (Wash Post). The author of the profile, journalist Michael Hastings, was "surprised" by the reaction to the piece, and had been "amazed" at the access he was given (NPR, NYT). Rolling Stone’s executive editor, Eric Bates, explained that part of Hastings’ access came when the author was stranded with the general and his staff in Europe because of the Icelandic volcano in April, and said the quotes used were all fact-checked and on the record (Tel). No one asked them to pull the article, according to Bates.
The new British foreign secretary William Hague is in Islamabad for his first official visit, seeking to deepen British-Pakistani ties (AFP, Geo, ET). As many as nine people have been killed in Karachi in targeted assassinations, and fighting continues in the northwestern tribal areas of Orakzai and Bajaur (Dawn, Daily Times, Geo, Daily Times, Daily Times).
Faisal Shahzad, the failed Times Square bomber who recently pleaded guilty to all charges against him, was reportedly eager to attack the U.S. and the time he spent in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region further hardened his resolve (AP). Andrea Elliott profiles Shahzad, pointing to the July 2007 Red Mosque incident as a catalyst for his militant sympathies (NYT). And four Democratic senators from New York and New Jersey are seeking to force the Obama administration to classify the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan as a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ (AP).
Gary Faulkner, the Osama bin Laden hunter who was arrested last week in Chitral with a pistol, sword, and night-vision equipment on a mission to find the terrorist leader, is reportedly being released by Pakistani authorities without charge (CNN, AP). Prosecutors of the five young Americans from Alexandria, VA who were arrested in Pakistan last fall on accusations of plotting terrorist attacks are confident the five will be convicted when their trial concludes tomorrow (AP).
Finally, Germany’s domestic intelligence is setting up a multilingual hotline that militant Islamists can call if they are trying to part ways with their groups (ABC). There are 29 Islamist organizations with 36,000 members in Germany.
Gary Faulkner’s legal defense
FP’s Josh Keating explains whether it’s legal to kill Osama bin Laden, writing, "Not really. But if you act alone, you’re probably in the clear" (FP). The bottom line: "If you’re planning on taking the war on terror into your own hands, it’s probably best not to tell anyone about it beforehand, and get out of town fast afterward."
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