A rolling stone gathers no moss, and the likelihood of a few untoward comments by the celebrated four-star general being the cause of his exit from the stage is highly refutable.
If one wants to understand the decline of General McChrystal, the top military official in the Afghanistan theatre of war, it is to be found in his lack of adherence to some of the fundamental rules of counter-insurgency.
In matters of counter-insurgency, destroying, that is, to defeat an enemy it is first necessary to locate them. The paramount importance of good information ‘intelligence’ in finding the enemy cannot, therefore, be overstated.
Intelligence gathering, however, has its limitations, the most obvious of which is that often it cannot be used to bring one’s forces into direct contact with the enemy. Due in part to the time lag between gathering information, conveying it to operational command, and command mounting an active response. Because, the enemy is likely to have moved from where they were when the information was first gathered.
For this and other equally good reasons, it has become a cardinal rule of counter-insurgency efforts to separate the functions of the intelligence organisations as being primarily responsible for collecting background information, from the role of operational command which is to analyse and develop intelligence to the extent necessary for one’s troops to make actual contact with the enemy.
It was the idea, the allure of finally ‘getting’ Osama bin Laden, that led McChrystal to blur the distinct lines which place the responsibility for developing intelligence with operational commanders and not the intelligence services.
Otherwise, it would not have been possible for a suicide-intent double agent to enter a military base under McChrystal’s watch without having gone trough all the security measures which are the last line of defence on military bases in an active theatre of war.
The intelligence agents and not the military commanders had affectively taken control of one of the most secretive and highly guarded locations in Afghanistan, Forward Operating Base Chapman.
The breakdown in routine operational military security procedures, resulted in a suicide bomber walking onto the base and detonating his ordnance with catastrophic results.
And, as a result the demise of General Stanley Allen McChrystal.