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McChrystal's Complaints: Indiscreet, But Not Unique


Although Gen. David Petraeus (at left) is not answering questions ahead of his Senate confirmation hearing next week, his spokesman sent me an e-mail which said, "one of the areas of focus will be in improved Civ-Mil (civilian-military) relations and unity of effort." That might sound like gobbedlygook -- but in the wake of the Rolling Stone fiasco it makes perfect sense.

The disparaging comments that Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff made about civilian members of the President's Afghan team revealed real divisions about Afghanistan. You don't have to go all the way to Kabul to hear military officers complain about the bull-in-a china-shop ways of Richard Holbrooke, the President's Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And McChrystal is not the only four star general who complains about Karl Eikenberry, the American ambassador to Afghanistan. McChrystal and his staff were expressing opinions held by many military officers. Their sin was to express them in such an indiscreet and disrespectful way.

Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke (left) and U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry (right).

Job one for Petraeus is not coming up with a better strategy. It's getting everybody on board for the current strategy. He will undoubtedly make some changes in the way the campaign is waged, but the overall strategy of surging troops into the Taliban heartland in southern Afghanistan and beginning a handover to Afghan security forces by July 2011 remains unchanged.

As for McChrystal, he is expected to put in his retirement papers. Since he's only been a four star general for a year, he does not have enough time in grade to retire as a four star and will have to slip back to three star status, which will cost him retirement pay. He once told me that after his military career (which he thought would last much longer than it did) he wanted to run a second hand book store.

If I had to bet money on what he's doing right this second, I'd say running with his wife. Everybody knows he's a runner, but so is she and they like to run together, although he's been away for much of the past nine years. Whenever they get a chance, they drive up to Gettysburg and run the battlefield.

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July 2011 Deadline for Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal: Politics Over Policy? Special Report: Afghanistan

David Martin CBS
David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
David Martin

David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.

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