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General McChrystal Told Pompeo To 'Muddle Along' In Afghanistan, Leaked Audio Reveals
Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he did not know what to do in Afghanistan but offered his "best suggestion" was for a small number of troops to remain and "muddle along" in the country, the retired four-star Army general told a small group last month during his book tour.
Although McChrystal, 64, mostly kept to a prepared presentation analyzing different military leaders through history during an hour-long talk in New York City on Nov. 26, he offered the surprisingly candid admission in response to an audience member's question on the path forward in Afghanistan, according to an audio recording of McChrystal's talk obtained by Task & Purpose.
"I met with Secretary Pompeo this morning and he asked me the same question, and I said, 'I don't know.' I wish I did. If I had a clever answer... if we pull out and people like al Qaeda go back, it's unacceptable for any political administration in the U.S. It would just be disastrous, and it would be a pain for us," McChrystal said of a potential drawdown for the war in Afghanistan, now in its 17th year.
"If we put more troops in there and we fight forever, that's not a good outcome either. I'm not sure what [is] the right answer. My best suggestion is to keep a limited number of forces there and just kind of muddle along and see what we can do," he said.
"But that means you're gonna lose some people, and then it's fair for Americans to ask, 'why am I doing this? Why am I putting my sons and daughters in harm's way?' And the answer is, there's a certain cost to doing things in the world, being engaged," McChrystal said. "That's not as satisfying. That's not an applause line kind of answer, but that's what I think, the only thing I could recommend."
In a phone call with Task & Purpose on Wednesday, McChrystal declined to further expand upon what he meant by those remarks. A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who has been nominated to take over U.S. Central Command, testified to the Senate on Tuesday that the Taliban had an estimated strength of 60,000. There are currently more than 20,000 U.S. and coalition troops there in support of more than 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police.
In the same hearing, McKenzie admitted that Afghan security forces would not "be able to successfully defend their country" if left without coalition support, despite more than $70 billion spent since 2002 to train and equip Afghan troops.
Although the war in Afghanistan has largely faded from public consciousness some 17 years after the campaign kicked off, the death of Army National Guard Maj. Brent Taylor, a Utah mayor, garnered national attention in November. The 39-year-old father of seven was killed on Nov. 3 by one of the Afghan commandos he was training. Army Ranger Sgt. Leandro Jasso was killed in action on Nov. 24, and three special operations troops were killed in an IED blast on Nov. 27 (a fourth service member later died on Dec. 2 from wounds sustained in the Nov. 27 strike).
President Donald Trump has been considering whether to withdraw all U.S. troops from the country by 2020, according to a recent NBC News report. The prospect of a full drawdown comes as Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan, has met multiple times with Taliban negotiators in an attempt to settle the war, which a number of U.S. officials now describe as a stalemate.
During last month's talk, McChrystal also discussed the problem of drug production in Afghanistan, where farmers had to choose whether to produce opium or other crops. The economic incentive of growing poppy was difficult to overcome, he argued.
"They're just caught in this incredible, difficult web, and there's not much they can do about it," McChrystal said of Afghan farmers.
"Long term we've got to create more options where they make as much or more money the other way. There's just no other way. The real problem with the opium is that it produces corruption. It puts money into corruption, which corrodes the whole government. Suddenly everything is tainted."
McChrystal served as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan from June 2009 to June 2010. In his initial 66-page assessment of the war, leaked to The Washington Post in Sep. 2009, McChrystal warned that he needed more troops to overcome the momentum of the Taliban or risk an outcome "where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."
"While the situation is serious, success is still achievable," he wrote in his commander's summary.
The following year, he resigned from his ISAF post soon after an article published in Rolling Stone revealed that he and his aides had disparaged senior members of the Obama administration.
WATCH NEXT: The Afghanistan War: A Timeline
The Marine lieutenant colonel who was removed from command of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May is accused of lying to investigators looking into allegations of misconduct, according to a copy of his charge sheet provided to Task & Purpose on Monday.
President Donald Trump just can't stop telling stories about former Defense Secretary James Mattis. This time, the president claims Mattis said U.S. troops were so perilously low on ammunition that it would be better to hold off launching a military operation.
"You know, when I came here, three years ago almost, Gen. Mattis told me, 'Sir, we're very low on ammunition,'" Trump recalled on Monday at the White House. "I said, 'That's a horrible thing to say.' I'm not blaming him. I'm not blaming anybody. But that's what he told me because we were in a position with a certain country, I won't say which one; we may have had conflict. And he said to me: 'Sir, if you could, delay it because we're very low on ammunition.'
"And I said: You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general," Trump continued. "No president should ever, ever hear that statement: 'We're low on ammunition.'"
This 400-pound feral hog is one of more than 1,200 that have invaded a Texas Air Force base since 2016
At least one Air Force base is waging a slow battle against feral hogs — and way, way more than 30-50 of them.
A Texas trapper announced on Monday that his company had removed roughly 1,200 feral hogs from Joint Base San Antonio property at the behest of the service since 2016.
In a move that could see President Donald Trump set foot on North Korean soil again, Kim Jong Un has invited the U.S. leader to Pyongyang, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday, as the North's Foreign Ministry said it expected stalled nuclear talks to resume "in a few weeks."
A letter from Kim, the second Trump received from the North Korean leader last month, was passed to the U.S. president during the third week of August and came ahead of the North's launch of short-range projectiles on Sept. 10, the South's Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple people familiar with the matter.
In the letter, Kim expressed his willingness to meet the U.S. leader for another summit — a stance that echoed Trump's own remarks just days earlier.
Constant deployments broke the Air Force's B-1 fleet. Now the service is facing a major bomber shortfall
On April 14, 2018, two B-1B Lancer bombers fired off payloads of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles against weapons storage plants in western Syria, part of a shock-and-awe response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his citizens that also included strikes from Navy destroyers and submarines.
In all, the two bombers fired 19 JASSMs, successfully eliminating their targets. But the moment would ultimately be one of the last — and certainly most publicized — strategic strikes for the aircraft before operations began to wind down for the entire fleet.
A few months after the Syria strike, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray called the bombers back home. Ray had crunched the data, and determined the non-nuclear B-1 was pushing its capabilities limit. Between 2006 and 2016, the B-1 was the sole bomber tasked continuously in the Middle East. The assignment was spread over three Lancer squadrons that spent one year at home, then six month deployed — back and forth for a decade.
The constant deployments broke the B-1 fleet. It's no longer a question of if, but when the Air Force and Congress will send the aircraft to the Boneyard. But Air Force officials are still arguing the B-1 has value to offer, especially since it's all the service really has until newer bombers hit the flight line in the mid-2020s.