His report to Washington of Aug. 30, 2009, set the parameters for the American debate on the Afghanistan War. He warned of failure unless his forces were greatly enlarged, and were more focused on protecting the civilian population. He considered the civilian government of Afghanistan a hindrance more than a help.
A 1976 graduate of West Point, he has held many commands and is known as a scholar-warrior.
After graduating from West Point in 1976, McChrystal worked on a U.N. Command Support Group in South Korea, and later served as an Army briefer and commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment in Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In 2001, he was appointed chief of staff of military operations in Afghanistan. He led the Army's Delta Force, which is credited for the December 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein.
In 2003-2008 McChrystal headed the super-secret "Joint Special Operations Command" in the Pentagon. He took over an insular, shadowy commando force with a reputation for spurning partnerships with other military and intelligence organizations. He managed to build close relationships with the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. He won praise from C.I.A. officers, many of whom had stormy relationships with commanders running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His command is credited for the death of Al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Before McChrystal's appointment to ISAF in June 2009, command was held by Gen. David D. McKiernan, who was forced out by the Obama Administration, which demanded a new look at policy options.
- see Afghanistan War
McChrystal reports to General David Petraeus, head of Central Command.
In August 2009, McChrystal reported on the dire conditions in Afghanistan to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He asked for 30,000-40,000 additional troops, warning that "Although considerable effort and sacrifice have resulted in some progress, many indicators suggest the overall effort is deteriorating" and added that there is "the urgent need for a significant change to our strategy." 
McChrystal said the Afghan government was riddled with corruption and NATO was being undermined by tactics that alienate civilians. He called the Taliban insurgency "a muscular and sophisticated enemy" that uses modern propaganda and systematically reaches into Afghanistan's prisons to recruit members and even plan operations. McChrystal alerted Washington that he urgently needs more forces within the next year; without them, he warned, the eight-year conflict "will likely result in failure."American policy was increasing set by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, originally appointed by President Bush in 2006 and reappointed by President Obama in 2009. Gates fired the commander General David McKiernan in May, 2009, replacing him with McChrystal.
By spring 2010 McChrystal will have over 100,000 American troops and some 30,000 or more NATO troops under his command in Afghanistan, exactly in line with his Aug. 2009 request.
In June 2010, McChrystal was summoned to the White House to explain biting and unflattering remarks he made to a freelance writer about President Barack Obama and others in the Obama administration. In the Rolling Stone article, titled "The Runaway General," McChrystal described Obama during their first meeting as "uncomfortable and intimidated."  National Security Adviser Jim Jones was described by a McChrystal aide as a "clown" stuck in 1985. Others aides joked about Vice President Joe Biden’s last name as sounding like "Bite me" since Biden opposed the surge.
Despite his criticisms of the Obama Administration, McChrystal is actually a political and social liberal who voted for Obama. In fact, he is so left-wing that he banned the Fox News Channel from the television sets in his headquarters.
- Bob Woodward, "McChrystal: More Forces or 'Mission Failure Washington Post Sept 21, 2009
- Richard A. Oppel, "Most New U.S. Forces for Afghanistan Will Be Sent to Taliban Stronghold in South," New York Times Dec. 2, 2009