McChrystal Mistakenly Reveals Secret CIA Report

In his widely reported London speech earlier this month, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, described how people constantly offer him ideas for fixing that country's problems. One of the more unusual recommendations, he suggested, came from a paper that advocated using a "plan called 'Chaosistan.' " McChrystal said it advised letting Afghanistan become a "Somalia-like haven of chaos that we simply manage from outside," but there was no further explanation of its origins.

When journalists from NEWSWEEK and other media outlets asked McChrystal's entourage about where the paper came from, they were directed to an obscure Web posting—an October 1998 speech headlined "What is Chaostan [sic]?" delivered by investment adviser Richard Maybury at a New Orleans conference for gold enthusiasts. Maybury predicted that 24 wars in "Chaostan"—a vast region stretching from Poland to North Africa to China, Vietnam, and Indonesia—would eventually merge into World War III. From an investor's point of view, Maybury wrote, this will be "great for weapons stocks and security--equipment stocks…and non-Chaostan oil investments." Was this really what McChrystal was referring to?

It seems unlikely. Two U.S. intelligence officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing a sensitive matter, say that the reference almost certainly comes from a recently published, and secret, CIA analysis titled "Chaosistan" (not "Chaostan"). Prepared by a "red team" of CIA analysts, the document, says one official, picks apart conventional analyses of the war and explains how forces inside Afghanistan—from hostile ethnic groups to intrusive neighbors to societal damage caused by past Taliban rule—work against the notions of a central Afghan government. The paper is not quite the policy proposal McChrystal implied it was, say the officials, since intelligence analysts don't generally recommend policy options.

After NEWSWEEK pointed out the existence of the CIA document to McChrystal's office, an assistant to the general admitted that he had originally provided information about the Maybury Web posting following a Google search—but later determined it was more likely that the general "used an unclassified term from an official paper." While declining to confirm the existence of the classified CIA paper, Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, says: "One function of intelligence agencies, including the CIA, is to provoke thought by laying out contrary views and alternative scenarios."