June 23rd, 2010
07:42 AM ET

'Everyone makes mistakes': Some Afghans on the fallout over McChrystal's comments

Washington may be up in arms over Gen. Stanley McChrystal's comments to Rolling Stone magazine about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and how some of his colleagues are handling it — but some in Afghanistan are asking what the fuss is all about?

McChrystal arrived in Afghanistan last summer as the top NATO commander — but if Washington is mad at the general, his friends in Afghanistan seem to be unafffected.

Many among the local population in Kabul say that McChrystal revamped the forgotten war, putting it on a different path and instilling a counter-insurgency strategy (COIN) in an attempt to regain the trust of the Afghan people.

He instilled a new hope, they argue, for those Afghans who actually backed the war effort, also angering the Taliban – which ramped up their PR — in the battle for hearts and minds.

President Hamid Karzai has vocally expressed his support for General McChrystal and called him the "best" commander for the war in Afghanistan, according to his spokesman Waheed Omar. He added that McChrystal is a man of great integrity who understands the Afghan people and their culture and that Karzai hopes president Barack Obama will not replace the commanding general with someone else.

McChrystal and Karzai have built a strong relationship in the year he has been in Afghanistan, flying to districts and provinces in order to gain the support of villagers while showing a united front.

He hasn't just been sitting around NATO headquarters barking orders say local officials — he's been going out in the field, meeting with soldiers and most importantly meeting with Afghans.

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry, explained that McChrystal's knowledge of Afghanistan stems from his discussions with Afghans.

He stated that McChrystal is a frequent attendee at village council meetings — known as "shuras" — throughout the country, where he listens to their problems, concerns and needs.

But McChrystal's tactical directive that restricts NATO forces on the ground from attacking enemy forces without having proof that they are militants has angered many soldiers.  Many feel that their own lives are put in greater danger because of it.  While for Afghans, it means less of a chance of civilian casualties — a sore issue that has caused friction in the Afghan — NATO relationship. 

"For Afghans it was very important that after a civilian was killed he would apologize on behalf of his people and his military," said Abdul Ghani, a 65-year-old businessman who was a former government official during the Taliban regime from 1996 through 2001.

"This showed that he was supporting the locals and he was trying to avoid a long-term fight and avoid civilians being killed."

Speaking through his salt and pepper beard, Ghani credits NATO's involvement, and particularly McChrystal, for bringing security and allowing him to run his business and make a living.

"He made a mistake and he used poor judgment in criticizing U.S. officials," Ghani said "but it is normal and everyone makes mistakes."

But Ghani's optimism about McChrystal stems mostly from his pessimism at past international leaders. He believes McChrystal has been the best one so far.

"We are satisfied with Mr. McChrystal and we hope he will not repeat the bitter experiences of the past," Ghani said.

The Ministry of Defense, which is being pushed by the U.S. and NATO to add more troops to their arsenal, is also standing behind McChrystal.

"Since the arrival of General McChrystal to Afghanistan many of our problems have been solved," ministry spokesman Azimi told CNN, "including problems with civilian casualties, unlawful detentions. He has also improved the coordination between Afghan and international forces on and off the battlefield."

By focusing on building infrastructure and civilian issues, Azimi adds, McChrystal has been able to win back some Afghan support.

But with the firestorm in the United States, the Afghan voices are being muffled again.

And even though his Afghan supporters and partners can forgive him, the question remains, can Washington?

— Journalist Matiullah Mati contributed to this report.

soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Brian

    Many freedoms are not available in the military. You are held to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. One thing the military cannot afford is a morale problem induced by an out of line Four-Star General. If the General bad mouths the Commander-in-Chief, so do his troops. Do you think that it's a good idea for 94,000 troops to hate their Commander-in-Chief? In the military, you follow your leaders without question, or you risk your life and the lives around you in selfishness. IT IS CODED INTO THE MILITARY LAW. Many "Americans" could learn a lot entering into one service or another for this country.
    This General may be useful and smart, but he comes with baggage that is unacceptable for this role.

    June 23, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • brent

      I didn't find anything in the UCMJ that mentions a limitation to free-speech or any reference to disagreement with leadership. What I read only spoke to allocation of power and proceedings. I get your point but I think that's an ideal, not a law from what I can tell. Also, he's not exactly disobeying orders or being insolent.

      June 23, 2010 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
      • Chan

        John laid it out pretty well, but yeah.

        Generally enlisted men and officers in any branch of the military have no freedom of speech whatsoever when it regards their opinion of their orders, superiors or mission. He's lucky that he's merely facing a potential firing...if an enlisted man publically spoke of a 4-* general the way that McChrystal's staff spoke of their superiors to Rolling Stone, they'd be court-marshaled and probably be doing time in Leavenworth for it.

        June 23, 2010 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
      • PopeJohnII

        Don't take it personal, but when you learned to read, was it left to right, front to back? Or was it right to left, back to front?

        June 24, 2010 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. brent

    this is ridiculous considering the absolute mockery our leaders have made of their own offices over the past 15 or so years. oh no, how dare someone criticize the leadership of this country.. are you kidding me? are you KIDDING me?

    June 23, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Seraphim0

      Brent: Read the UCMJ (article 88 in particular, I believe it is). The general BROKE THE LAW by saying these things publically. So, no, we aren't "kidding you." This is not something that is 'just now' being used. People have been prosecuted over this in the past.

      June 23, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
      • rista

        If you read the article you will realize that most of the "controversial" comments were not made by McChrystal they were attributed to anonymous "aides". About the only thing from the General that made me flinch werehis comments about the email from Holbrooke because they were indicative of two people who don't like each other much. The real question isn't McCrystal mouthing off it, it's why would he and his staff be stupid enough to hang out with a reporter for a month? In an interview with the reporter he said that as a result of the volcano eruption they got stuck in Europe together. Even if they did, that doesn't explain why they would have allowed the reporter get so much access. That was the real "poor judgement" that was shown.

        June 23, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. helen

    US Grant, Patton, etc were all outspoken......history records them as honest and tough.....not sure when it became a crime to speak your opinion.

    June 23, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • rocky

      I figure the General voiced the opinion of many people and I agree with him. I hope that those whose nose he put out of joint look at his record and let him get on with his business.

      June 23, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      General McChrystal's remarks reflect his passion for the safety and success of his soldiers as well as the non-combatant Afghan people. His frustration is clear. Should he have shown restraint in his comments? Yes.
      However it's quite possible that he doesn't have the candid or straightforward communications opportunities he SHOULD have with his superiors.

      June 23, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. Usman

    @Josh McChrystal's strategies are the reason why we're having any success in the war there now. Maybe you didn't read the article, or else you simply didn't understand. When civilian casualties were up, the insurgency was much stronger. Now that civilian casualties are low, BECAUSE OF McChrystal, the insurgency has lost support! We can't win this war without risking our soldiers' lives. At least they signed up for it... the innocent Afghan civilians that get killed by our bullets didn't.

    June 23, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. john

    Freedom of speech is deader than a doornail.

    June 23, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      As a vet I can categorically tell you, that when you sign on the dotted line, you sign away your rights...that said, since the president is the commander in chief, it would be the same as a worker saying negative things about his boss...generally something you don't want to do, if you wish to keep your job.

      June 23, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • TR1020

      This man does not have freedom of speech. He is in the military. If one of McChrystal's subordinates showed him the same disrespect, do you not think he or she would be fired? Or at least reprimanded? He is in a highly public position. If he wants the freedom to talk badly about superiors, he should take a job in the private sector.

      June 23, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
      • Anonymous

        Hey Idiots, did any of you actually read the six page article? He never once criticized the President. The story was not based on an interview, the Rolling Stone Journalist was a media embed, which means he observed everything in his time with GEN McCrystal. The whole article was out to get the general. Controversy sells, and they wanted to promote it. Now they cost the best Commander in Afghanistan his job. Just ask the Afghans and the people we are trying to win over. Great Job media!

        June 23, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Arvo

    Its called free speech everyone should have the right to it even if others disagree with it public or private it's what your fighting for over their. Don't agree with the term he made a mistake he was speaking his true feelings and ruffled a few feathers of the real idots on Capitol Hill

    June 23, 2010 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark Williams

      Article 89 Disrespect towards a superior Disrespectful behavior is that which detracts from the respect due the authority and person of a superior commissioned officer. It may consist of acts or language, however expressed, and it is immaterial whether they refer to the superior as an officer or as a private individual. Disrespet by words may be conveyed by abusive epithets or other contemptuous or denunciatory language. Truth is no defense. Disrespect by acts includes neglecting the customary salute, or showing a marked disdain, indifference, insolence, impertinence, undue familiarity, or other rudeness in the presence of the superior officer

      June 23, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
      • Jim Bob

        Let's stone him to death!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeah! Disrespect is such a horrible, horrible, horrible, unspeakable crime.

        June 23, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • ED

      Arvo, doesn't sound like u have ever been in the military...you basically give up your rights when you sign the dotted line...actually you don't lose your rights, but you are held accountable for what you say...that is a luxury that most civilians take for granted.

      June 23, 2010 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
      • matt

        Yep, people not familiar with the military don't understand that, but you give up a lot of your civilian rights when you become enlisted. It really can't be any other way if we want our military to be reliable and effective.

        June 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seraphim0

      mark: Thought it was article 88?

      And As for 'disrespect' being such a big deal- in the military you follow the chain of command or people can die. You respect your superiors. You do not diss your CO in public, and you especially to do not diss the CIC in public. Then again, you were obviously never in the military so you have no idea what this means.

      Is this all a 'big deal?' Yes. It's a really big deal. So big that it is a crime according to military justice.

      June 23, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • kwest

      When you sign on the dotted line to serve in the US military....you do not keep your right to free speech. If any of you idiots rambling about free speech had ever served a day in the military, you would know this.

      June 23, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ken

    if this was a first offence then let it be. But it is not. Civilian control over the military is paramount in a democracy. If he is allowed to return he takes back to the war front a hostility and contempt for his boss and the American people. He needs to go.

    June 23, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Kreczk

      That's why we have the 2nd amendment. To feel safe. Get it finally ?

      June 23, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
      • ImNoExpert

        How does private gun ownership relate to this?

        June 23, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Puff

      He showed contempt to a few people, NOT American people; don't mix them together, you idiot.

      June 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Josh

    Ofcourse the Afghans want mcrystal to not resign becasue he cares more about them then the american soldiers. They no if mchrystal gets replaced then the war will be totally different and soldiers wont have to fear for their own lives anymore..

    June 23, 2010 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Sandy

      Obama will only have slackers on his staff. If Obama lets the General go then he has bigger issues to deal with. His firing will inflame many. Wall Street Journal has begun to slam Obama too. The General did not say anything about the President, directly. I support the General.

      June 23, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.

        You don't say anything about those higher than you... If you do you lose your job... Because you are suppose to follow your orders know matter what you feel about the orders!!!

        June 24, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.

        Sandy: Were you ever in the Service??? If you think Obama orders are bad!!! I wonder what you think of Bush's Orders were??? At Least Obama is listening to His Generals... Not like Bush who only listen to Cheney!!!

        June 24, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Stewart

      It's not that he cares more about the Afghans then soldiers, it's that he cares about both of them. You can't win a counterinsurgency war without having the people behind you. The General has done a lot of things to get the Afghans behind the American efforts over there, and that makes the soldiers safer.

      June 23, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      In war soilders always have to worry about their lives. Its not like Generals resignation would all of a sudden make all the soilders in Afghanistan Iron Men

      June 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
      • Larry Valecia, Calif.

        The only General that stuck his head out with the troops was General Patton!!! The rest fought the wars where they could not get killed...

        June 24, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  9. Bill ---- Atlanta

    How did this turn into racism?

    June 23, 2010 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.

      Because if it would have been ordered from any one but Obama know one would never say anything wrong like that!!! The Generals just quit with Bush in office... They never said anything against Him!!!

      June 24, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  10. ziya

    go on idiots.

    June 23, 2010 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • T

      I am glad he is gone. Next is the rest of the gangs. Karzai and his cabinet including the ones with bags, United States top representative in Afghanistan.

      They are all corrupted.
      It is time to have a good leader with a great vision. This general will do it.
      I am sure he is the one to let Karzia and his gangs go.
      By by Karzia.

      June 23, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • T

      Karzia and his cabinet is next. Karzia is the one who supported the General. Today that General is gone. Karzia must go.

      June 23, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
      • ben

        T I'don't think it's necessary to have a president of a country to be kicked just for supporting a general. Also Hamid Karzai is the one who forced the taliban to surrender in Afghanistan.

        June 25, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Melissa

      This is crazy! I want every person on here who is preaching about free speech to walk up to their boss and acted as rudely and disrespectful as the general did and then watch you realize your out of a job. Free speech and all the other rights everyone speaks of are not free they come with a price and those of us who defend them do not get those benefits. It is one thing for other countries to see our stupidity when it comes to political division but a completely different matter for them to see our military has no integrity and a complete lack of respect for our leadership. For those of you who complain he didn't say anything actions speak just as loud as words. Quit bashing on the leadership of this country and embrace what we have stand behind them and voice what you want not everything you don't want and when you don't get your way quit crying and throwing fits life isn't fair deal with it.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
      • page21

        Well said, Melissa.

        June 24, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
      • Jaybob

        The article was pretty interesting- he didn't "slam Obama"- one of his aides said, in a nutshell, that the General felt a "disconnect" in the office. The aide spoke his opinion. McCrystal didn't say anything "bad".

        The article showed exactly what the difference is between what everyone thinks is going on, and how things "really are". That's a fact. McCrystal is not a politician. His job is to win a war. Not kiss butt. Deal with it.

        Obama could not handle it, because it was "bad publicity". Obama said he would listen to his commanders on the ground, and has not done so until it was something that made him look bad.

        The General was in charge of Black Ops. Yeah, that happens. Get over it. A man who does black ops is a man who understands that solutions aren't always pretty. Function over form. Nothing about that says "be nice to everyone".

        The article had more opinions from the writer than the General. Obama is firing him because people see the lack of political leaders' understanding of what the war really is about. As soon as the men in suits and ties in air-conditioned offices understand that "the man on the ground knows what he is talking about", the sooner this stuff can get done.

        June 24, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |