The US commander in Afghanistan mocks the vice president and denounces a top diplomat in a magazine interview, while his aides speak dismissively of President Barack Obama.
Tensions between General Stanley McChrystal and the White House are on full display in an unflattering profile in Rolling Stone of the commander of US and NATO forces in the Afghan war.
McChrystal jokes sarcastically about preparing to answer a question referring to Vice President Joe Biden, known as a skeptic of the commander’s war strategy.
“‘Are you asking about Vice President Biden?’ McChrystal says with a laugh. ‘Who’s that?’” the article quotes him as saying.
“‘Biden?’ suggests a top adviser. ‘Did you say: Bite Me?’”
McChrystal tells the magazine that he felt “betrayed” by the US ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, in a White House debate over war strategy last year.
Referring to a leaked internal memo from Eikenberry that questioned McChrystal’s request for more troops, the commander suggested the ambassador had tried to protect himself for history’s sake.
“I like Karl, I’ve known him for years, but they’d never said anything like that to us before,” McChrystal tells the magazine.
“Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.’”
Eikenberry, himself a former commander in Afghanisan, had written to the White House saying Afghan President Hamid Karzai was an unreliable partner and that a surge of troops could draw the United States into a open-ended quagmire.
The article revisits the friction between the White House and the military last fall as Obama debated whether to grant McChrystal’s request for tens of thousands of reinforcements.
Although Obama in the end granted most of what McChrystal asked for, the strategy review was a difficult time, the general tells the magazine.
“I found that time painful,” McChrystal says. “I was selling an unsellable position.”
An unnamed adviser to McChrystal alleges the general came away unimpressed after a meeting with Obama in the Oval Office a year ago, just after the president named him to take over in Afghanistan.
“It was a 10-minute photo op,” the general’s adviser says.
“Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was… he didn’t seem very engaged.
“The boss was pretty disappointed,” says the adviser.
The profile, titled “The Runaway General,” portrays his aides as profane and intensely loyal to McChrystal, while arguing the general has seized control over the war on the military and diplomatic fronts.
The four-star general also derides the hard-charging top US envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, and complains about a dinner with an unnamed French minister during a visit to Paris.
“Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke,” McChrystal says, looking at his messages on a mobile phone. “I don’t even want to open it.”
In a hotel room in Paris getting ready for a dinner with a French official, McChrystal says: “How’d I get screwed into going to this dinner?”
“The dinner comes with the position, sir,” says his aide, Colonel Charlie Flynn.
“Hey, Charlie,” McChrystal says, “does this come with the position?”
McChrystal gives him the middle finger.
Correction: Due to an editor’s mistake, a headline on the front page of Raw Story incorrectly asserted that the General said “Bite me” of Vice President Biden. It was the general’s aide, not the general himself.