* McChrystal says unmanned aircraft help liberate U.S.
* But drones fuel global perception of American arrogance,
* Afghan debate fueled White House, Pentagon mistrust - book
(Updates throughout with McChrystal interview)
By David Alexander
WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Aerial reconnaissance and
attack drones have had a liberating effect on U.S. military
forces, but they are deeply hated by many people and their
overuse could jeopardize Washington's broader objectives,
retired General Stanley McChrystal said on Monday.
McChrystal, who authored the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy
in Afghanistan, said use of drones had enabled him to carry out
missions with smaller groups of special operations forces
because the "eye in the sky" provided backup security.
"What scares me about drone strikes is how they are
perceived around the world," he said in an interview. "The
resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is
much greater than the average American appreciates. They are
hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one
or seen the effects of one."
McChrystal said the use of drones exacerbates a "perception
of American arrogance that says, 'Well we can fly where we want,
we can shoot where we want, because we can.'"
Drones should be used in the context of an overall strategy,
he said, and if their use threatens the broader goals or creates
more problems than it solves, then you have to ask whether they
are the right tool.
President Barack Obama's heavy reliance on drones to wage
war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere has
provoked questions about the use of the aircraft and the
legality of targeted killings.
Washington has not been swayed by the criticism and Obama
nominated the official behind the campaign, top counterterrorism
adviser John Brennan, to be the next CIA director.
McChrystal said he had known Brennan for about a decade and
applauded the choice, saying "he's got the trust of other key
players, and that's a very important commodity."
McChrystal has conducted a series of media interviews to
promote his memoir, "My Share of the Task," which was released
on Monday. In it he recounts his military career, including his
time as head of U.S. special forces and commander of
international troops in Afghanistan.
McChrystal wrote that Obama's first year in office was
marked by creeping mistrust between the White House and the
Pentagon over Afghan war policy, with repeated requests for more
troops fueling the suspicion.
McChrystal, who became the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan
during those months, said Obama was elected at a time when
General David McKiernan, then head of international forces, was
seeking 30,000 more troops to stave off a Taliban resurgence, a
request that had been on hold since the previous summer.
"It created an unwelcome dynamic," McChrystal wrote. "In the
eighth year of the war in Afghanistan, a new president found
himself facing a time-sensitive decision."
"The next 10 months saw the emergence of an unfortunate
deficit of trust between the White House and the Department of
Defense, largely arising from the decision-making process on
Afghanistan," he wrote. "To me it appeared unintentional on both
sides. But over time, the effects were costly."
Obama initially approved 17,000 additional troops, but the
Pentagon soon had to come back to ask for 4,000 more. And when
McChrystal became commander of international forces later that
year, he conducted a strategic reassessment and sought 40,000
The rising mistrust ultimately played a role in McChrystal's
resignation. In June 2010 the general stepped down after Rolling
Stone magazine ran an article entitled "The Runaway General," in
which it quoted members of McChrystal's staff disparaging top
White House officials and allies. McChrystal was summoned back
to Washington, where he resigned.
An investigation by the Department of Defense Inspector
General concluded that not all of the events described in the
Rolling Stone article had occurred as reported and there was
insufficient evidence to conclude any Defense Department
standards had been violated. Rolling Stone stood by its story.
McChrystal, while expressing surprise about the "tone and
direction" of the article, said he accepted responsibility for
it and never had any question about the necessary response.
"I knew only one decision was right for the moment and for
the mission. I didn't try to figure out what others might do, no
hero's or mentor's example came to mind. I called no one for
advice," wrote McChrystal, who now teaches leadership at Yale
University and heads a leadership consulting group.
He said he did not go into detail in the book about his
final meeting with Obama because he believed it was important to
hold their conversation in confidence. But he characterized it
"I offered to him to do what ever he thought was best for
the mission," McChrystal said. "I said if you want me to go back
to Afghanistan and work, I'm happy to do that. If you think
accepting my resignation is best for the cause and for the
nation, then I have no complaint with that."
(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart; editing by Christopher