Ex-U.S. army commander pens book on Afghan war effort

General-Stanley-McChrystal.jpgFirst aired on the Current (23/01/13)

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Former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McCrystal, was more or less forced into resigning after Rolling Stone published an unflattering article about the man in charge of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. The Michael Hastings article, published in 2010, quotes McCrystal and his aides making dismissive comments about U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden.

During his reign as commander, McCrystal had allowed a number of journalists close access, he told the Current, and co-operated with the media to help soldiers' families understand the war effort. He didn't see the Rolling Stone article coming, and when it did, he didn't think it was fair.

"I didn't view it as an accurate article," McCrystal said. "But, at the time, I was in a position where I felt that the nation was more important than any individual." He resigned from duty in July 2010 -- a move backed by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Now a citizen, McCrystal penned My Share of the Task, an expose of his life as top dog in the coalition's war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In the book, McCrystal doesn't hesitate to say what he thinks, even if it is unkind to the Obama administration.

The war on Iraq was a blunder by the American government, he said. "I think it would be hard to make a straight-faced argument that it was a good decision." Without the Iraq invasion, America would have had more focus on and more resources for the efforts in Afghanistan, he said. Plus, the Iraq invasion meant the U.S. lost credibility for a lot of nations because many did not agree with the actions in Iraq.

In Afghanistan, McCrystal did not think the Taliban needed to be defeated by the military. Instead, the Afghan people needed a government they could believe in.

"Then you really make the insurgents of the Taliban irrelevant," he said. Yet, when Hamid Karzai won Afghanistan's presidential election, many in the international community felt the process was rigged. 

But McCrystal remains unapologetic about his close ties to Karzai. "There was a lot of corruption in the election for sure, but -- in my view -- Hamid Karzai was going to win anyway," he said. "There was almost no way that he was not going to win the election."

Recently, Karzai has made headlines after saying that there will only be more stability in Afghanistan when foreign forces leave. Still, McCrystal believes the war in Afghanistan has been "absolutely worth it." After all, he says, al-Qaeda was pushed out of the country.

"My sense, my personal sense, is the sacrifice has been honourable."

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