The general who once led the U.S. war in Afghanistan told a Cal Poly audience Thursday of the need for stability in that nation in order to make America more secure.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal — who resigned this summer after the publication of a Rolling Stone article with comments attributed to him and staff that were critical of President Barack Obama’s administration — also said the United States might not have the political will and patience to continue the war until a stable government is in place.
McChrystal spoke of his many hours of conversation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that he felt were necessary to establish trust and to understand his views regarding cooperation.
“We will benefit from stability in the region and pay for neglecting (to help create stability),” said McChrystal.
McChrystal’s speech focused on the complexities of life in Afghanistan and surrounding countries and the lack of knowledge most Americans have about the region.
He spoke of the flooding in Pakistan and a long history of war in Afghanistan and concerns of poverty and violence that often are on the minds of the people in those countries as much as extremist groups.
The retired four-star general who reportedly runs eight miles, eats one meal, and sleeps four hours daily answered several questions from members of the audience that ranged from whether the United States can afford the war with economic problems at home to whether a political science major should enter into public service.
He said that the “million dollar question” is how we will end the war and when, and his answer included that there is an obligation to the people to help police the instability that continues.
McChrystal also said that he had a good relationship with Obama, which he believes is still intact, and decided to offer his resignation after the Rolling Stone article because he felt it detracted from the war effort.
“I offered my resignation because I thought the furor over the article would make it difficult to accomplish the mission in Afghanistan,” he said.
Members of the local chapter of the anti-war organization Code Pink, gathered outside the Performing Arts Center at Cal Poly in protest of the war, some holding a sign stating, “How is the war economy working for you?”
Dian Sousa, a member of the local organization, said that the United States can’t afford to wage war in Afghanistan and that the billions of dollars spent monthly could be used toward health care, education and green jobs.
“We’re all in favor of freedom of speech and having Stanley McChrystal be allowed to talk here, but we also want to voice our thoughts because he’s a face of the war and one of its architects,” Sousa said.
In response to a question on the recent release of confidential government documents by the online whistleblower website WikiLeaks, McChrystal said he feels the leaks could be harmful to the United States in building relationships with foreign governments.
He also said the journalist behind the release wasn’t trained to gauge the security risks by making more than 250,000 pages of diplomatic cables public.
In response to the question about public service, McChrystal strongly advised the student to pursue the career, calling it a great commitment.
The general — paid $50,000 for his appearance as part of the Cal Poly Arts lecture series — drew an audience that filled nearly two-thirds of the PAC. Visitors paid between $25 and $100 per ticket.