Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Bowe Bergdahl, Hillary Clinton and his call to national service

Olivier Knox, Yahoo News
Yahoo News

Retired General Stanley McChrystal, in an exclusive interview with Yahoo News, reflected in unusually personal terms on the controversy that cost him his command of the Afghan war and praised Hillary Clinton as “great to work with.”

Would Clinton make a good president? “I know she made a good secretary of state,” he replied.

“I found her great to work with, and so I have huge regard for her,” the former general said during a wide-ranging conversation in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “I don’t handicap the presidential race, but I certainly enjoyed working with her.”

McChrystal also weighed in on President Obama’s decision to win Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom by exchanging him for five Taliban detainees, his plan for winding down the war in Afghanistan, and the widespread failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The former general sat down with Yahoo News on the sidelines of the Franklin Project’s summit on national service at Gettysburg, where the tide of the Civil War turned in the Union’s favor after three bloody days of fighting in 1863.

The gathering will focus on a proposal from McChrystal that envisions making one year of national service a rite of passage for young Americans between the ages of 18 and 28, with the goal of creating one million national-service positions by 2023.

“They will do good things for fellow Americans, but they will also grow and they will be better citizens in the long term,” McChrystal said. “At the end of the day, the real product is going to be better citizens. And I think that is the single biggest way we can make America better for the future.”

The retired general said the money  and opportunities  would have to be shaped in a partnership between the private sector and the government.

Americans could do their “service year” through the military as well as established service programs like Teach for America, Americorps, or the Peace Corps. In an effort to make the program accessible to lower-income Americans, a small living allowance would be provided.

But “it’s not going to be a big federal agency effort,” he underlined, adding that “a vast majority of the funding is going to have to come from private sources,” such as businesses and philanthropists.

Americans tend to be service-minded: The country has a high rate of volunteerism and charitable giving. But asking them to commit to a full year of service is sure to pose challenges  and has also drawn criticism ever since McChrystal first floated the idea.

McChrystal is perhaps best known as the general who commanded the war effort in Afghanistan until a Rolling Stone exposé by the late Michael Hastings led to his abrupt ouster. Hastings’s piece detailed disrespect for civilian leaders  including Vice President Joe Biden  from McChrystal and his entourage.

“There are days it hurts. There are days I feel like I was treated unfairly,” he said about the controversy that ultimately cost him his job. “But, you know, that’s really not very important. The only person who really cares about that is me.”

Asked whether he misses being a soldier, McChrystal replied: “Absolutely.”

“I miss the soldiers every day. I miss the mission. I loved Afghanistan. I miss that deeply,” he said.

“I don’t miss the bureaucracy of being in the Army,” he added. “But I still love the relationships you can build. And it doesn’t have to be in military service  it can be anything you’re doing with someone that matters. You develop a bond.”

Video by Andrew John Rothschild

Yahoo News would like to thank the Gettysburg Foundation for its help and hospitality.

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