In the aftermath of the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the public debate has turned to include criticism of the US generals who were, at different times, leading commanders in Afghanistan. Not only because of their failures to win the war there, but also, because almost all of them came back, retired, and became advisers to, or members on the board of leading US corporations.
Last week, a “Washington Post” report which mainly focused on one of them, Retired General Stanley A. McChrystal, said: “They have amassed influence within businesses, at universities and in think tanks, in some cases selling their experience in a conflict that killed an estimated 176,000 people, cost the United States more than $2 trillion and concluded with the restoration of Taliban rule.”
Following are brief accounts about five of them - their tenures in Afghanistan, the financial corporations they joined after they retired, and a few of their famous statements.
Stanley A. McChrystal:
Tenure: 2009 – 2010
Corporations: A board member or adviser for at least 10 companies while running a boutique consulting firm and teaching at Yale University. For a position on JetBlue’s board between 2010 and 2019, he was paid a total of more than $1.3 million, He made roughly the same amount between 2011 and 2018 from Navistar International.
1. “It’s not a bunch of people getting their snout in the trough and just trying to get rich. If you’ve risen to that level, you develop that skill level, that’s what the opportunities that come, are. And I don’t think that’s wrong.”
2. Afghanistan War “has had a very disappointing outcome. I don’t think that necessarily means that many of the decisions made and the strategies pursued were wrong. I think in many cases they were the best strategy that could have been.”
David H. Petraeus
Tenure: 2010 - 2011
Corporations: A partner at KKR, a private equity firm that had an annual revenue of about $20 billion. Also, director of its Global Institute. Had pleaded guilty for providing classified materials to a mistress and a biographer.
1. ”As for my leadership in Afghanistan, I stand by what we did, and how I reported it during my time.”
2. “We're all outriders out there, and what we have is all these large numbers of tasks - that's the herd; that's all the cattle - a whole bunch of individuals, hundreds if not thousands of projects at any given time ongoing that we're trying to complete. So we're trying to keep the cattle herd, keep it all just going in the right direction.”
Tenure: 2011 – 2013
Corporations: President of the Brookings Institution, which has received millions of dollars from Northrop Grumman, a defense giant, with annual revenue of about $30 billion.
!. ” Protecting Afghan civilians is the cornerstone of our mission”.
2. “Afghanistan is going to be here a long time, and what's critical is that Afghanistan's relationship with its neighbors are, to the maximum extent they can be, constructive and operationally useful.”
Tenure: 2013 – 2014
Corporations: Joined the board of directors at Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s biggest defense contractor. Served on the Classified Business and Security Committee and Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee. He is also on the board of a New York private equity firm.
1. “I pushed no policy in Afghanistan. I did exactly what the president directed me to do.”
2. “I'm not using the' withdraw' word right now, we're going to make sure that Afghanistan's not a sanctuary.
Tenure: 2011 - 2016 (Chief of Staff)
Corporations: Joined JP Morgan Chase & Co as a senior adviser on "risks of doing business in various countries, technology and cybersecurity." Also, Chairman of Eastern Air Lines (new 2015), a charter airline based in Florida.
1.“For me it's about changing the dynamics, the political dynamics, the economic dynamics, and it has to be done by those in the region.”
2.” We could probably go in there with a certain amount of American force and ... defeat (ISIS). The problem is we would be right back where we are today, six months later."