06.22.10

Karzai Loses His Only Friend

Gen. Stanley McChrystal's exit will hit Kabul even harder than Washington. Lloyd Grove talks to an Afghan media mogul who says the general is the only American official close to Karzai, which will make him very hard to replace.

In Washington, it’s a parlor game, an entertaining cable melodrama, grist for the chattering classes and the talking heads.

But in Kabul, the resignation of loose-tongued commanding Gen. Stanley McChrystal—over reckless remarks he and his aides made about President Obama and his team to a freelance writer from Rolling Stone—is a looming catastrophe.

Click Below to Watch Obama’s Announcement of McChrystal’s Departure

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“It’s just really bad—really, really bad,” media mogul Saad Mohseni, the head of Afghanistan’s biggest broadcast outlet, Moby Group, told me from Kabul. “I think it will be an extraordinary loss of opportunity for Afghanistan. He is very close to President Karzai, which no one else in Washington is. To see McChrystal go is to lose ground and have to restart the whole effort from scratch. He is very determined to get the job done, so it would be a big loss for the country.”

James Hoge: McChrystal Must Go

Leslie H. Gelb: Let McChrystal Stay

Harold Evans: How to Fire a General

View our Gallery of More Loose-Lipped Public Servants

5 Potential McChrystal Successors

More Daily Beast contributors on McChrystal’s future
McChrystal’s close rapport with Hamid Karzai, the United States’ deeply flawed ally in the battle against the Taliban and al Qaeda, is unique among American officials. Both U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and special envoy Richard Holbrooke, two of Team McChrystal’s special targets in the Rolling Stone piece, share an acrimonious relationship with the Afghan leader. Along with his relatives and cronies, Karzai is widely suspected of corruption of both the acquisitive and political variety.

The red-faced four-star general—who was forced to cancel a scheduled interview Wednesday with Mohseni’s Moby TV in order to fly to Washington for a presidential wood-shedding—is both the author and the implementer of the Afghan surge strategy that Obama cautiously embraced in America’s longest-running military conflict.

“This is massive news here today. The U.S. policy in Afghanistan is McChrystal’s policy. Anybody who takes his place is going to have to enact that policy.”

Mohseni continued: “I like McChrystal. I think he’s a very good man who cares a great deal about this country, and he is a consummate professional. I’ve had dinner with him once and gotten to know him. He is a very engaging man, and he has developed a deep understanding of the terrain; he’s very hardworking, very disciplined, and—this is very unusual for a military guy—he is very analytical and really wants to know what you think.”

Lloyd Grove is editor at large for The Daily Beast. He is also a frequent contributor to New York magazine and was a contributing editor for Condé Nast Portfolio. He wrote a gossip column for the New York Daily News from 2003 to 2006. Prior to that, he wrote the Reliable Source column for the Washington Post, where he spent 23 years covering politics, the media, and other subjects.