Thursday, October 27, 2011

Afghan Leader’s Invitation Could Reopen Doors for Former U.S. Commander

President Hamid Karzai has invited retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who led NATO troops here in 2009 and 2010, to Afghanistan, and General McChrystal plans to make the visit in the next few weeks, Afghan and American officials said.

The general has not been in Afghanistan since he resigned his command in June 2010 after an embarrassing article in Rolling Stone magazine quoted members of his staff saying disparaging things about the Obama administration.

Though his visit is being described as a private one — his wife, Annie, will accompany him — it may be the beginning of a return to the Afghan policy arena, where he was a significant player for much of the last 10 years, first as chief of clandestine special operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and then as NATO commanding general here.

General McChrystal has remained in touch with senior Afghan officials, in particular Mr. Karzai, with whom he had built a strong relationship.

The official relationship between Washington and Mr. Karzai has often been strained. As a result, American officials are interested in having people in the wings who could open back channels to the erratic Afghan leader. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts has sometimes played that role.