By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
The appointment of Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the next Afghanistan commander increases the chances that the United States will capture or kill Osama bin Laden, intelligence sources say. After all, it was McChrystal who went to Iraq in 2006 as the military's top manhunter. His men quickly started rounding up or killing a long list of al Qaeda operatives, including the biggest prize of all, Abu Musab Zarqawi. After a bomb from an F-16 killed Al Qaeda in Iraq's leader, McChrystal sped to the scene to view the corpse of one of the most brutal terrorists ever.
McChrystal was in Iraq as commander of the supersecret Joint Special Operations Command, which includes the Army's Delta Force, the Navy's SEAL Team Six, and a high-tech intelligence unit known was Task Force Orange. McChrystal, a workaholic and fitness buff, arrived with al Qaeda at its peak in Iraq. According to an intelligence source in Iraq at the time, McChrystal revamped how JSOC works with the CIA and teams from the National Security Agency, which does communications intercepts. He fused all the units together so that a Delta Force squad on the hunt could receive immediate intelligence on the target's whereabouts. Task Force Orange played a big role in locating Zarqawi. Its operatives monitored Internet cafes where al Qaeda messengers did their work. The monitoring led them to an associate of Zarqawi, who ultimately led them in June 2006 to his hideout near Baquba.
How will McChrystal in Afghanistan help the CIA find bin Laden, thought to be in Pakistan? The CIA station chief in Islamabad, who controls operations in that Pakistan, and top commanders across the border in Afghanistan have had rocky relationships in coordinating operations. But in Iraq, McChrystal showed an ability to get the CIA, NSA, and JSOC on the same page, as he virtually took down the al Qaeda network, leader by leader. He can convey that same manhunt know-how to the CIA as it scans Pakistan's rugged western mountains, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding. "McChrystal will bring a wealth of experience dealing with the CIA to the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater," says the intelligence source. "His ability to coordinate the U.S. intel community and focus JSOC tactical assets led to the death of Zarqawi and the destruction of al Qaeda within Iraq. If he can repeat the task with bin Laden in Pakistan and help stabilize Afghanistan, he will be remembered as one of the best counterinsurgency tacticians in history."
Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, an adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, the overall commander in the region, is also impressed by McChrystal. "He is a very innovative commander, open to new ideas, a quick study who will be able to fully exploit the new strategy for Afghanistan," Keane told Whispers. "He fully understands that the center of gravity for counterinsurgency operations is the people, while the enemy is the center of gravity for conventional operations. Therefore, all military operations must be considered in terms of the context of the people."
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