SpyTalk: Will McChrystal's staff survive his exit?
Thursday, June 24, 2010; 4:14 PM
In the shock wave following Gen. Stanley McChrystal's abrupt summons from Kabul, word raced through Washington's special operations circles that his senior staff had been relieved of duty, too.
"They were told to pack a suitcase and get on that plane," one veteran of McChrystal's staff said Wednesday. "They said 'We'll forward the rest of your belongings, your danger pay is done.' "
Chief among those said to be ordered out was Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, McChrystal's intelligence chief, who authored a controversial denunciation of U.S. spying efforts in Afghanistan early this year, and his brother, Charlie, an Army colonel who is the general's chief of staff.
Charlie Flynn had a cameo role at the top of the infamous Rolling Stone piece that did his boss in.
But the fevered buzz was false -- or at least premature -- according to a McChrystal spokesman who was still on duty in Kabul as the cashiered general left the White House.
"Col. Flynn accompanied him back because he is the general's executive officer," Tadd Sholtis said in an e-mail. "MG Flynn remained in Afghanistan to carry out his duties as our intelligence chief."
Sholtis added, "The remainder of the staff continue to do what they did before -- spending 16-20 hours busting their humps each day to get this mission done."
As for the two Flynns' future, "That decision is between them and Gen. Petraeus and I am not qualified to speculate on the preferences of either party," Sholtis said.
Like the rest of McChrystal's inner circle, however, the Flynns are not just longtime spec-ops brothers-in-arms, but members of the Kabul camp that carelessly mocked President Obama's team in the Rolling Stone piece. In normal times, they could be expected to be packing up fast.
But these, of course, are not normal times in Afghanistan, where anything resembling victory is well over the horizon while the clock ticks down to July 2011, when the military is to start drawing down.
Petraeus, McChrystal's longtime mentor and hard-pressed for time, may well ditch the usual housecleaning and retain other key members of the sacked general's war-fighting staff, particularly his deputy chief of staff for operations, Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, and, of course, Michael Flynn.
But it's hard to imagine the younger Flynn, McChrystal's closest aide, heading back to Kabul for anything but cleaning out his desk.