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McChrystal Faces Raft of Issues as New Commander in Afghanistan

Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is known for his work tracking down high-value targets in Iraq.
Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is known for his work tracking down high-value targets in Iraq. (Dennis Cook - AP)
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One of the first steps McChrystal is likely to take is to winnow down the military staff in Afghanistan, analysts and officers said.

As a manager, McChrystal favors flatter, faster organizations and is known for preferring a small staff that is overworked rather than a large one that has time to grow unfocused, according to officers who have worked under him.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tapped McChrystal to become director of the Joint Staff last year. McChrystal's confirmation in that post was delayed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, some members of which voiced concern about his oversight of detention facilities where abuses occurred. The committee also looked into McChrystal's role in the Army's handling of the friendly-fire death of Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman in Afghanistan.

After McChrystal was confirmed, Mullen gave him the assignment of making the Joint Staff a more responsive organization. McChrystal immediately instituted a regimen of 6 a.m. video teleconferences from around the world. Mullen "is a big fan of McChrystal. He's been positively delighted by his performance," said a Joint Staff official.

One critical task for McChrystal, military officers said, will be to more closely integrate the efforts of the growing number of conventional troops and Special Operations forces in Afghanistan, where 47,000 U.S. and 33,000 non-U.S. troops now serve. That will require balancing the mission of killing and capturing Taliban insurgents with the broader work of protecting the population.

Lt. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, who served with McChrystal in Iraq, said yesterday that McChrystal "understands the value of high-value targets" as well as "having the small unit on the ground" to provide better security for Afghans. McChrystal "really does understand that you're not going to win the war by killing all the enemy," he said, adding, "He did that in Iraq for five years."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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