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Gen. McChrystal on fighting ISIS, creating "radical" transparency in military

With modern warfare, Gen. Stanley McChrystal had to redefine counterterrorism strategy
Gen. McChrystal on battling ISIS, "Team of Teams" military strategy 05:07

While the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is at the forefront of many conversations about terror, retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal says ISIS is "a symptom of a much greater problem."

Gen. Stanley McChrystal on leadership strategy "Team of Teams" 06:31

"I think if you think of the region as a body that has HIV/AIDS, ISIS is that little disease that comes in when the immune system of the region has been weakened so much by instability and a lack of political narrative," McChrystal said Monday on "CBS This Morning."

McChrystal, who redefined U.S. counterterror strategy while leading the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq and Afghanistan, said even if ISIS disappeared tomorrow, there would still be problems within some of the more unstable countries in the Middle East.

"So if we don't look at the fundamental problems, then ISIS, or son of ISIS or grandson of ISIS will be a problem for years and years to come," he said.

According to McChrystal, part of the challenge in intelligence communities is that the various organizations "work in silos."

"That was the story of 9/11, and the challenge in all of those kinds of threats is pulling the pieces of the puzzle into a single picture," he said.

While the disjointedness became less of a problem after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, McChrystal said organizations can drift apart and "people tend to get in their desk and their cubicle and their office, and information becomes very difficult to share."

That's why in his new book, "Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World," McChrystal is proposing a different military environment to tackle these types of challenges. Instead of running every decision by a general, his approach emphasized sharing information and empowering those under him to act quickly.

"Think of the United States government, the different parts of the government, or parts inside - Department of Defense, or anywhere. You've got to create linkages across those that create the same kind of sinew that inside a small team that you're so familiar with exists in a big team," McChrystal said.

He acknowledged this is a challenging task.

"It takes what we call shared consciousness, which is this radical level of transparency," McChrystal said. "Start to build information so that you can start to push down decision making through what I call empowered execution. You're really arming all the people at the lowest levels to use their best judgment because now they have contextual understanding of what they have to do."

It was the type of environment that al Qaeda was using in Iraq in 2004 when the U.S. was "losing" despite the efforts of a task force of "superbly equipped and exquisitely trained small teams," McChrystal said.

"What we found was an environment in which information passed so fast and things were interconnected so much that complexity had hit a point where you couldn't operate in discrete teams and have an effect," McChrystal said. "You had to create a network that was organic in its ability to adapt. That's what al Qaeda did. They didn't do it consciously, they did it automatically."

Detailed operation orders in the military "never execute as you planned," McChrystal said, so the idea that it will always be different in the field has to be built into the structure.

"They're there, they're far from you, and they're in the position 'do I do what I was told or do I use my best judgment?' If we don't get a culture where they're informed by information and empowered to use their best judgment, we fail," McChrystal said.

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