Stanley McChrystal on Leadership

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal speaks about leadership, the military, and winding down in Afghanistan.

By + More

Why did you resign in response to the Rolling Stone article controversy?

I had the Rolling Stone embed because we were doing a wide variety of media to try to explain the war to the American people and to our European allies. And when the story came out, I was completely surprised by the tone it took, and I didn't agree that it was a fair depiction of the team. But, as you know, a media controversy swirled, and they take on a life of their own. And my concern was it was going to distract from the mission; it was going to give my boss, the president, a challenge to deal with that was going to make his job harder. Whether there was true fault warranted, and there was later an Inspector General report that found great differences from the article, it didn't matter. At the time, I'm comfortable it is my responsibility to offer my resignation, and I don't have any hesitation. I still feel that way.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Afghanistan.]

President Obama just announced a handover of security operations to the Afghan forces as early as spring. Are they ready?

Well, you know, by some metrics they're not. But I think what's really important is the psyche of the Afghan people here. The Afghan people are terrified of the future; they are afraid of a Taliban return. I think if we offer them a strategic partnership that says we are your ally, we are reliable, that the numbers of troops and the amount of money is much less important than that psychological commitment.

Does Afghan President Hamid Karzai have the political capital to secure immunity for U.S. troops after withdrawal, which President Obama has tied to U.S. presence there?

I suspect that he does. I suspect that the Afghan people and the Afghan political body absolutely knows that this is a critical issue. They watched what happened in Iraq, I don’t think they want to see that happen. And clearly we can’t put American service members in a position where they don’t have fair and reasonable protections.

What's next for you?

Leadership. I am teaching leadership at Yale, and then I cofounded a company, the McChrystal Group, that does leadership consulting with non-defense firms. We help them deal with competitive environments. Just like our military changed in response to the world shifting so fast, that's what we help companies do.

  • Read Michael P. Noonan: What the U.S. Can Learn from France's Mali Intervention
  • Read Brett McCrae: Congress Must Weigh in on U.S. Future in Afghanistan
  • Read Mackenzie Eaglen: Other Services Should Follow Navy's Lead on Warning of Hollow Force