In June, McChrystal noted, he had arrived in Afghanistan and set about fulfilling his assignment. His lean face, hovering on the screen at the end of the table, was replaced by a mission statement on a PowerPoint slide: "Defeat the Taliban. Secure the Population."
"Is that really what you think your mission is?" one of the participants asked.
In the first place, it was impossible -- the Taliban were part of the fabric of the Pashtun belt of southern Afghanistan, culturally if not ideologically supported by a major part of the population. "We don't need to do that," Gates said, according to one participant. "That's an open-ended, forever commitment."
But that was precisely his mission, McChrystal responded, enshrined in the Strategic Implementation Plan -- the execution orders for the March strategy, written by the NSC staff.
December 5, 2009
"It was just sort of a recognition that, 'Duh, that's what in effect the commander understands he's been told to do.' Everybody said, 'He's right.'"
The "'whoa' moment" in the deliberations over the Afghanistan strategy: