President Obama's decision to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan with Gen.
David Petraeus will do little to reassert
civilian control over the U.S. mission there, according to the former No. 2 U.N.
official in Afghanistan.
Announcing the move today in front of the White
House, Obama said
that U.S. democracy "depends upon institutions that are stronger than
individuals. That includes strict adherence to the military chain of command,
and respect for civilian control over that chain of command."
But Amb. Peter
Galbraith, who was fired
from his role as deputy of the U.N. mission in Kabul
last year after privately raising concerns about the
widespread fraud perpetrated by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the presidential election, told The Cable in an exclusive interview that
Obama's decision to change commanders in Afghanistan ignores the need to have
the diplomats, not the generals, in the lead.
"The president needs to make clear that it is the ambassador
that speaks for the U.S. and the commanding general is not the one who is
making U.S. policy," Galbraith said.
Galbraith argues that in the aftermath of the
dispute between Special Representative Richard
Holbrooke and Karzai following last year's presidential election and the
revelation that Amb. Karl Eikenberry
did not see Karzai as a credible partner, Obama allowed McChrystal to become
the primary connection to the Afghan leader. Meanwhile, the top two civilian
officials were marginalized.
"Unfortunately, as part of his love offensive, Obama
made a mistake in letting Karzai choose his interlocutor," Galbraith said.
Holbrooke was delivering a "tough love" message
before he was pushed to the side. Now Karzai, who "heads a mafia state,"
according to Galbraith, has no incentive to make the reforms that would allow his
government to achieve the credibility it needs.
"Eikenberry was right," Galbraith said, referring to
the ambassador's leaked memos, which were published by the New York Times in January "He said the strategy wouldn't work
because we don't have a credible partner and the strategy is not working."
As for McChrystal, Galbraith gave him credit for
changing the tactics of the military operations in Afghanistan, but gave him
low marks for the diplomatic role he was playing with Karzai and his government.
"He understood that you can't win the war by just
killing lots of Taliban, but there's no evidence that he understood the key
flaw with his strategy, which is that you need a credible partner, which we
don't have," he said.
The president was totally justified in sacking
McChrystal, Galbraith said. But if there's no credible partner in Afghanistan,
there's only one policy option left to him.
"Withdraw most of the troops," he said. "There's no
point having thousands of troops there pursuing an objective that can't be
President Obama announced that he has accepted the
resignation of General Stanley
McChrystal, who until the release of this Rolling Stone profile was
the commander of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan.
Here is the full text of his remarks:
Today I accepted General Stanley McChrystal's resignation as commander
of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. I do so with considerable regret, but also with certainty it is the
right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military, and for our
country. I'm also pleased to nominate General David Petraeus to take command in
Afghanistan, which will allow us to maintain the momentum and leadership we
need to succeed."
I don't make this decision based on any difference in policy
with General McChrystal, as we are in full agreement on our strategy. Nor do I
make this decision out of any sense of personal insult. Stan McChrystal has
always shown great courtesy and carried out my orders faithfully. I've got
great admiration for him and for his long record of service in uniform. Over
the last nine years, with America fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has
earned a reputation as one of America's finest soldiers. That reputation is
founded upon his extraordinary education, his deep intelligence, and his love
I've relied on his service, particularly in helping to
design and lead our strategy in Afghanistan. So, all Americans should be
grateful for General McChrystal's remarkable career in uniform. But war is
bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president.
As difficult as it is to relieve General McChrystal, I believe it is the right
decision for our national security. The conduct represented in the recently
published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding
general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core
of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that is necessary for our
team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.
My multiple responsibilities as commander in chief led me to
this decision. First, I have a responsibility to the extraordinary men and
women who are fighting this war and to the democratic institutions that I have
been elected to lead. I've got no greater honor than serving as commander in chief
of our men and women in uniform and it is my duty to see that no diversion
complicates the vital mission that they are carrying out. That includes
adherence to a strict code of conduct. The strength and greatness of our
military is rooted in the fact that this code applies equally to newly enlisted
privates and to the general officer who commands them. That allows us to come
together as one. That's part of the reason that America has the finest fighting
force in the history of the world.
It is also true that our democracy depends on institutions
that are stronger than individuals. That includes strict adherence to the
military chain of command and strict civilian control over that chain of
command. That's why as commander in chief I believe this decision is necessary
to hold ourselves accountable to standards that are at the core of our
Second, I have a responsibility to do whatever is necessary
to succeed in Afghanistan and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and
defeat al Qaeda. I believe that this mission demands unity of effort, across our
alliance and across our national security team. And I don't think we can
sustain that unity of effort and achieve our objectives in Afghanistan without
making this change. That, too, has guided my decision. I just told my national security team that
now is the time for all of us to come together. Doing so is not an option but
an obligation. I welcome debate among my team but I won't tolerate division.
All of have personal interests, all of us have opinions, our politics often
fuels conflict, but we have to renew our sense of common purpose and meet our responsibilities
to one another and to our troops who are in harm's way, and to our country.
We need to remember what this is all about. Our nation is at
war. We face a very tough fight in Afghanistan. But Americans don't flinch in
the face of difficult truths or difficult tasks. We persist and we persevere. We will not tolerate a safe haven for
terrorists who want to destroy Afghan society from within and launch attacks
against innocent men, women, and children in our country and around the world.
So make no mistake, we have a clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban's
momentum. We are going to build Afghan capacity. We are going to relentlessly
apply pressure on al Qaeda and its leadership, strengthening the ability of
both Afghanistan and Pakistan to do the same. That's the strategy we agreed to
last fall. That's the policy we are carrying out in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In that effort, we are honored to be joined by allies and partners that have
stood by us and paid the ultimate price of the loss of their young people at
war. They are with us because of the interests and values we share and because
this mission is fundamental to the ability of free people to live in peace and
security in the 21st century.
General Petraeus and I were able to spend some time this
morning discussing the way forward. I'm extraordinarily grateful that he has
agreed to serve in this new capacity. It should be clear to everybody that he
does so at great personal sacrifice to himself and to his family. And he is
setting an extraordinary example of service and patriotism by assuming this
difficult post. I say to the American people, this is a change in personnel but
not a change in policy. General Petraeus fully participated in our review last
fall and he both supported and helped design the strategy that we have in
place. In his current post at Central Command, he has worked closely with our
forces in Afghanistan, he has worked closely with Congress, and he has worked
closely with both the Afghan and Pakistan governments, and with all our
partners in the region. He has my full
confidence and I am urging the Senate to confirm him as quickly as possible.
Let me conclude by saying that it was a difficult decision
to come to the conclusion that I've made today. Indeed it saddens me to lose
the service of a soldier who I've come to respect and admire. But the reasons
that led me to this decision are the same principles that have supported the
strength of our military and our nation since the founding. So once again, I
think General McChrystal for his contributions to the security of this nation
and the success of this mission in Afghanistan. I look forward to working with
General Petraeus and my entire national security team to succeed in our
mission. And I reaffirm that America stands as one in our support for our men
and women who defend it.