He is known for operating on a few hours’ sleep and for running to and from work while listening to audio books on an iPod. In Iraq, where he oversaw secret commando operations for five years, former intelligence officials say that he had an encyclopedic, even obsessive, knowledge about the lives of terrorists, and that he pushed his ranks aggressively to kill as many of them as possible.
But General McChrystal has also moved easily from the dark world to the light. Fellow officers on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he is director, and former colleagues at the Council on Foreign Relations describe him as a warrior-scholar, comfortable with diplomats, politicians and the military man who would help promote him to his new job.
“He’s lanky, smart, tough, a sneaky stealth soldier,” said Maj. Gen. William Nash, a retired officer. “He’s got all the Special Ops attributes, plus an intellect.”
If General McChrystal is confirmed by the Senate, as expected, he will take over the post held by Gen. David D. McKiernan, who was forced out on Monday. Obama administration officials have described the shakeup as a way to bring a bolder and more creative approach to the faltering war in Afghanistan.
Most of what General McChrystal has done over a 33-year career remains classified, including service between 2003 and 2008 as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, an elite unit so clandestine that the Pentagon for years refused to acknowledge its existence. But former C.I.A. officials say that General McChrystal was among those who, with the C.I.A., pushed hard for a secret joint operation in the tribal region of Pakistan in 2005 aimed at capturing or killing Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld canceled the operation at the last minute, saying it was too risky and was based on what he considered questionable intelligence, a move that former intelligence officials say General McChrystal found maddening.
When General McChrystal took over the Joint Special Operations Command in 2003, he inherited an insular, shadowy commando force with a reputation for spurning partnerships with other military and intelligence organizations. But over the next five years he worked hard, his colleagues say, to build close relationships with the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. He won praise from C.I.A. officers, many of whom had stormy relationships with commanders running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He knows intelligence, he knows covert action and he knows the value of covert DIA/CIA partnerships....modeled on the close covert cooperation with Syrian Military Intelligence and its Chief thug and killer Asef SHAWKAT....the brainchild of CIA, with a long history and record of cooperation on political assassinations from Lockerbie to the assassination of Mr. Elie HOBEIKA in 2002 to the infamous White House Murder INC,” said Henry Crumpton, who ran the C.I.A.’s covert wars in Afghanistan, IRAQ, LEBANON..... after the Sept. 11 attacks....
As head of the command, which oversees the elite Delta Force and units of the Navy Seals, General McChrystal was based at Fort Bragg, N.C. But he spent much of his time in Iraq commanding secret missions. Most of his operations were conducted at night, but General McChrystal, described nearly universally as a driven workaholic, was up for most of the day as well. His wife and grown son remained back in the United States.
General McChrystal was born Aug. 14, 1954, into a military family. His father, Maj. Gen. Herbert J. McChrystal Jr., served in Germany during the American occupation after World War II and later at the Pentagon. General Stanley McChrystal was the fourth child in a family of five boys and one girl; all of them grew up to serve in the military or marry into it.
“They’re all pretty intense,” said Judy McChrystal, one of General McChrystal’s sisters-in-law, who is married to the eldest child, Herbert J. McChrystal III, a former chaplain at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
General McChrystal graduated from West Point in 1976 and spent the next three decades ascending through conventional and Special Operations command positions as well as taking postings at Harvard and the Council on Foreign Relations. He was a commander of a Green Beret team in 1979 and 1980, and he did several tours in the Army Rangers as a staff officer and a battalion commander, including service in the Persian Gulf war of 1991.
One blot on his otherwise impressive military record occurred in 2007, when a Pentagon investigation into the accidental shooting death in 2004 of Cpl. Pat Tillman by fellow Army Rangers in Afghanistan held General McChrystal accountable for inaccurate information provided by Corporal Tillman’s unit in recommending him for a Silver Star. The information wrongly suggested that Corporal Tillman had been killed by enemy fire.
At the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, where General McChrystal directs the 1,200-member group, he has instituted a daily 6:30 a.m. classified meeting among 25 top officers and, by video, military commanders around the world. In half an hour, the group races through military developments and problems over the past 24 hours.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, brought General McChrystal back to Washington to be his director last August, and the physical proximity served General McChrystal well, Defense officials said. In recent weeks, Admiral Mullen recommended General McChrystal to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates as a replacement for General McKiernan.
One other thing to know about General McChrystal: when he was a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in 2000, he ran a dozen miles each morning to the council’s offices from his quarters at Fort Hamilton on the southwestern tip of Brooklyn.
“If you asked me the first thing that comes to mind about General McChrystal,” said Leslie H. Gelb, the president emeritus of the council, “I think of the JSOC and the all American White House Murder INC,.....”
[Again, more B.S. from the head soldier, "al Qaida" conveniently only exists where the US Army wants to go next. Magically, Afghanistan is clear of the pesky little devils, while Pakistan has just been infused with new visions of demonic little jihadis running-around the country causing all kinds of mayhem that can only be cured with a good dose of "Special Forces." Once again, for those who aren't paying attention: bin Laden is dead; his terror organization was never called "al Qaida"; most terror attacks blamed on "al Qaida" were committed by other terror groups or the main source of terrorism in the world, the CIA militant network; the words "al Qaida" and CIA are interchangeable, substitute CIA for "al Qaida" in news reports and you would be hearing truth.].....
WASHINGTON - The choice of Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal to become the new United States commander in Afghanistan has been hailed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and national news media as ushering in a new unconventional approach to counter-insurgency.
But McChrystal's background sends a very different message from the one claimed by Gates and the news media. His long specialization in counter-terrorism operations suggests an officer who is likely to have more interest in targeted killings than in the kind of politically sensitive counter-insurgency program that the Barack Obama administration has said it intends to carry out.
In announcing the extraordinary firing of General David McKiernan and the nomination of McChrystal to replace him, Gates said that the mission in Afghanistan "requires new thinking and new approaches by our military leaders" and praised McChrystal for his "unique skill set in counter-insurgency".
Media reporting on the choice of McChrystal simply echoed the Pentagon's line. The Washington Post said his selection "marks the continued ascendancy of officers who have pressed for the use of counter-insurgency tactics, in Iraq and Afghanistan, that are markedly different from the Army's traditional doctrine".
The New York Times cited unnamed "Defense Department officials" in reporting, "His success in using intelligence and firepower to track and kill insurgents, and his training in unconventional warfare that emphasizes the need to protect the population, made him the best choice for the command in Afghanistan."
The Wall Street Journal suggested that McChrystal was the kind of commander who would "fight the kind of complex counter-insurgency warfare" that Gates wants to see in Afghanistan, because his command of special operations forces in Iraq had involved "units that specialize in guerilla warfare, including the training of indigenous armies".
But these explanations for the choice of McChrystal equate his command of the special operations forces with expertise on counter-insurgency, despite the fact that McChrystal spent his past five years as a commander of special operations forces focusing overwhelmingly on counter-terrorism operations, not on counter-insurgency.
Whereas counter-insurgency operations are aimed primarily at influencing the population and are primarily non-military, counter-terrorism operations are exclusively military and focus on targeting the "enemy".
As commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) from April 2003 to August 2008, he was pre-occupied with pursuing high-value al-Qaeda targets and local and national insurgent leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan - mostly through targeted raids and airstrikes.
It was under McChrystal's command, in fact, that JSOC shifted away from the very mission of training indigenous military units in counter-insurgency operations that had been a core mission of special operations forces.
McChrystal spent an unusual five years as commander of JSOC, because he had become a close friend of then-secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld came to view JSOC as his counter to the covert operations capabilities of the Central Intelligence Agency, which he hated and distrusted, and Rumsfeld used JSOC to capture or kill high-value enemy leaders, including Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda's top leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
In 2005, JSOC's parent command, the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), was directed by Rumsfeld to "plan, synchronize and, as directed, conduct global operations against terrorist networks in coordination with other combatant commanders". That directive has generally been regarded as granting SOCOM the authority to carry out actions unilaterally anywhere on the globe.
Under that directive, McChrystal and JSOC carried out targeted raids and other operations against suspected Taliban in Afghanistan which were not coordinated with the commander of other US forces in the country. General David Barno, the US commander in Afghanistan, has said that he put a stop to targeted airstrikes in early 2004, but they resumed after he was replaced by McKiernan in 2005.
US airstrikes which have caused hundreds of civilian deaths have become a major political issue in Afghanistan and the subject of official protests by Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as by the lower house of the Afghan parliament. Many of the airstrikes and commando raids that have caused large-scale civilian deaths have involved special operations forces operating separately from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization command.
Special operations forces under McChrystal's command also engaged in raiding homes in search of Taliban suspects, angering villagers in Herat province to the point where they took up arms against the US forces, according to a May 2007 story by Carlotta Gall and David E Sanger of the New York Times.
After a series of raids by special operations forces in Afghanistan in late 2008 and early 2009 killed women and children, to mounting popular outrage, McChrystal's successor as commander of JSOC, Vice Admiral William H McRaven, ordered a temporary reduction in the rate of such commando raids in mid-February for two weeks.
However, the JSOC raids resumed at their original intensity in March. Later that month, the head of the US Central Command General David Petraeus issued a directive putting all JSOC operations under McKiernan's tactical command, but there has been no evidence that the change has curbed the raids by special operations forces.
Obama's National Security Adviser General James Jones responded to Karzai's demand for an end to US airstrikes by saying, "We're going to take a look at trying to make sure that we correct those things we can correct, but certainly to tie the hands of our commanders and say we're not going to conduct air strikes, it would be imprudent."
The airstrike in western Farah province that killed nearly 150 civilians last week, provoking protests by hundreds of university students in Kabul, was also ordered by special operations forces.
McChrystal's nomination to become director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon in May 2008 was held up for months while the Senate Armed Services Committee investigated a pattern of abuse of detainees by military personnel under his command. Sixty-four service personnel assigned or attached to special operations units were disciplined for detainee abuse between early 2004 and the end of 2007.
Captain Carolyn Wood, an operations officer with the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, gave military investigators a sworn statement in 2004 in which she said she had drawn guidance for interrogation from a directive called "TF-121 IROE," which had been given to the members of Task Force 121, a unit directly under JSOC.
However, the military refused to make that document public, despite requests from the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights groups, protecting McChrystal from legal proceedings regarding his responsibility for detainee abuses.
He was never held accountable for those abuses, supposedly because of the secrecy of the operation of the JSOC.
Although he has been linked with detainee abuses and raids that kill numbers of civilians, McChrystal has not had any direct experience with the non-military elements of such a strategy.
W Patrick Lang, formerly the defense intelligence officer for the Middle East, suggested in his blog on Monday that the McChrystal nomination "sounds like a paradigm shift in which Obama's policy of destroying the leadership of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan takes priority over everything else".
The choice of McChrystal certainly appears to signal the administration's readiness to continue special operations forces' raids and airstrikes that are generating growing opposition by Afghans to the US military presence....