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Stanley A. McChrystal led the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq during the Persian Gulf Wars and was top Commander of American forces in Afghanistan.
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He completed the course in 1990, and was assigned to the position of action officer for Army Special Operations, working in Joint Special Operations Command. In 1991, McChrystal saw action in both the Desert Shield and Desert Storm tours in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War, then returned to North Carolina to command 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. By 1997, McChrystal was in command of the entire 75th Ranger Regiment.
In addition to his strong military leadership, McChrystal excelled in academia, becoming a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1996, followed by a year as a military fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations in 1999.
Little is known of McChrystal's service as commander of the super-secret Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008, a unit so covert that the Pentagon denied its existence for decades. What is known is that, under McChrystal's command, JSOC was able to capture Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in December 2003 as well as al- Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006.
But McChrystal also faced heavy criticism in his role as JSOC commander. In one instance, the Pentagon faulted McChrystal for a cover-up involving the 2004 death of former football star Pat Tillman. McChrystal claimed that Tillman had died at the hands of enemy combatants, approving the soldier's citation for a Silver Star. Later evidence proved, however, that Tillman's death had been a fratricide.
McChrystal and his secret Task Force 6-26 were also accused of unnecessarily violent interrogation tactics at Camp Nama in Baghdad, Iraq. The camp received repeated warnings from government officials for possible human rights violations during the questioning of suspects, and the reports of abuses were said to have outraged even CIA, FBI and DIA investigators accustomed to dealing with hostile detainees.
In May 2009, McChrystal's military training in special operations and unconventional warfare helped him land the role of top commander in Afghanistan, replacing former General David McKiernan. President Obama, disappointed by McKiernan's handling of the war, believed McChrystal's knowledge of special ops would be especially useful when fighting against the unconventional tactics of Afghani insurgents.
Once in charge, McChrystal was openly vocal about the necessity for more troops; his doubts that the U.S. would achieve a major victory in Afghanistan; and his lack of faith in the new counterterrorism strategy endorsed by Vice President Joe Biden. McChrystal's comments got him called onto the carpet several times in his first year, and was admonished by President Obama for his brash, divisive statements. But his biggest gaffe came in June 2010, when Rolling Stone magazine published an article featuring controversial quotes about the White House leadership made by McChrystal and his aides.
In the piece, McChrystal said he was "pretty disappointed" by his first meeting with President Obama, and dismissed Vice President Joe Biden with several crude jokes. He also expressed his frustration with key members of White House leadership, referring to them as "clowns." McChrystal was called to Washington D.C. several days later to meet with President Obama. At the meeting, McChrystal tendered his resignation. Obama accepted his dismissal, and replaced him on June 23, 2010 with General David Petraeus.
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