Obama sacks McChrystal over contemptous article
US commander in Afghanistan fired after aides attack White House ‘wimps’
America's top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, was fired by President Barack Obama today after the general and his tight circle of aides expressed their contempt for senior members of the Obama administration in the course of a magazine profile.
The Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings, headlined The Runaway General, is due to be published this Friday, but was widely leaked in advance.
The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war in Afghanistan "by never taking his eye off the real enemy: the wimps in the White House" and it includes several explosive passages in which McChrystal's aides belittle Barack Obama's team.
As a result, the general was recalled from Kabul to Washington and ordered to appear in person at the White House today. Obama and McChrystal spent 30 minutes together this morning before it was announced that McChrystal had been relieved of his command. It was not immediately clear who would succeed him.
Obama had said yesterday that the article showed "poor judgment" and McChrystal had - according to reports - offered to resign before he presented himself at the White House.
The Rolling Stone article includes these vignettes:
• A message from special envoy Richard Holbrooke was apparently greeted by McChrystal with the words: "Oh not another email from Holbrooke. I don't even want to open it."
• A McChrystal aide reportedly called the White House national security adviser, Jim Jones, a clown who was "stuck in 1985".
• Describing McChrystal's first meeting with Obama, another aide told the magazine: "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his fucking war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The boss was pretty disappointed."
• McChrystal is quoted as saying of his diplomatic partner in Kabul, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, who he felt betrayed him: "Here's one that covers his flank for the history books."
The article consistently depicts McChrystal as a lone wolf who failed to connect with Obama right from the start. Last autumn, when the general went public on his desire for a troops surge in Afghanistan, Obama carpeted him for speaking too bluntly when he was not yet ready to make up his mind.
"I found that time painful," McChrystal is quoted as saying. "I was selling an unsellable position."
After the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, called McChrystal in Kabul on Monday night to express his "deep disappointment" over the article, McChrystal issued an apology on Tuesday.
"I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war," he said, "and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome.
"I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened."
McChrystal's PR aide, Duncan Boothby, who organised access for the Rolling Stone reporter, had already resigned from his post before today's announcement.
McChrystal is not the first commander to be fired by President Obama. His predecessor, Gen David McKiernan, was sacked on the grounds that the US military needed "new thinking and new approaches" in Afghanistan.