Gen. Stanley McChrystal on the tasks behind him

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
CBS News

(CBS News) General Stanley McChrystal played a key role in forging the U.S. strategy in the fighting in Afghanistan. You may ALSO recall his well-publicized fall from grace. Gen. McChrystal has written a new book about the good times, and the bad. Here he is with our national security correspondent David Martin:

During his 34 years in the Army, Stanley McChrystal began each day with a run. Now, corporate executives pay good money to jog with him along the National Mall for a lesson in leadership -- from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln, who had famously difficult dealings with his generals.

"Lincoln was very involved with his generals, in some cases early in the war, too much so," McChrystal said.

McChrystal had difficult dealings with his own commander-in-chief, Barack Obama, and had to resign as commander in Afghanistan.

But it would be unfair to remember him only for that, because McChrystal was the man who transformed the Joint Special Operations Command into the organization that killed the two most notorious terrorists of the 21st century -- Osama bin Laden, and Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the shockingly ruthless leader of the insurgency in Iraq.

"People would say, 'We gotta fight the war on terror.' And I'd say, 'Forget that. We gotta win the war on terror,'" McChrystal said. "You gotta do whatever it takes to actually bring this thing to a successful conclusion."

In Iraq McChrystal found out it wasn't enough just to send commando teams on nighttime raids to kill or capture terrorists.

"As the violence was rising and we would do operation after operation, very good operations, they would still see the situation deteriorating," he said.

For all their military skills, they were not tapping into the power of information.

"They'd take a bag . . . They'd put the things they had captured -- documents, computers, phones or whatever -- and then send that back with a little note on it, basically. And when I went to look at some of our facilities, I found a room where those bags had just been stacked in there. And they weren't being translated, they weren't being exploited, because we just didn't have the manpower or the expertise."

So McChrystal committed the heresy of bringing outsiders into the world of special operations.

"I would go into rooms and I'd see big commandos sitting across from 22-year-old female intelligence analysts, and the commandos just sitting quietly, as the analyst was the expert. Or, I saw young men, civilian young men come out and they have pierced things all over their faces, which was counter to the culture of special operations, but they brought expertise and equivalent passion. They care just as much as the operators."

Within two years, the number of nighttime raids -- and with it the amount of intelligence exploited -- climbed from 18 a month to over 300.

"We started as a book shop, and by the time we were up and completely built into a network, we were," he laughed. "And our real strength was this network that moved information."

McChrystal's network was clawing at Zarqawi's network, capturing and killing his lieutenants.

"You had to kill a lot of people in order to finally get to Zarqawi. Did you ever wonder if you were losing your humanity?" asked Martin.

"I think every soldier has to ask themselves that . . . The danger of the operators drawing the conclusion that anything is worth to stop Zarqawi is a natural conclusion, but it's a dangerous conclusion, because once you step away from your humanity, then I'm not sure where you are."

"Did you have any cases where soldiers were mistreating the bad guys they captured?"

"We did," he replied.

It happened when they picked up a truck driver who knew where Zarqawi was.

"Some of the operators that worked for me mistreated the detainee. They touched him with a taser several times . . . We found out about it, we punished all four.

"However well-intentioned it was, however understandable it was, however human it was, you can't let it happen," he said.

"Did the guy in the truck give you a lead to Zarqawi after he'd been tased?" Martin asked.