Jun 23, 2010 11:21 AM by Melissa Canone
WASHINGTON (AP) - Afghanistan war commander Gen. Stanley
McChrystal met privately with President Barack Obama at the White
House Wednesday and then departed ahead of a scheduled war strategy
session. There was no immediate word on whether Obama would fire
him for his inflammatory remarks in a magazine interview.
Officials had initially indicated that McChrystal would attend
the strategy session on Afghanistan to explain remarks he made in
the interview with Rolling Stone magazine. But he was seen leaving
the West Wing and climbing into a van after his nearly half-hour
face-to-face meeting with the president. McChrystal had met earlier
in the day with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of
Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.
Before the White House meeting, two military officials said
McChrystal went in prepared to submit his resignation. They spoke
on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak
Obama was expected to make an announcement on McChrystal's
future later Wednesday.
"I think it's clear that the article in which he and his team
appeared ... showed poor judgment," Obama said Tuesday at the
close of an unrelated Cabinet meeting. "But I also want to make
sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final
Obama summoned McChrystal to Washington from Afghanistan after
learning of his comments about administration officials. A White
House rebuke of McChrystal suggested that it would be hard for him
to save his job.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his confidence in
McChrystal during a video conference Tuesday night with Obama,
Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said Wednesday in Kabul.
"We hope there is not a change of leadership of the
international forces here in Afghanistan and that we continue to
partner with Gen. McChrystal," Omar told reporters.
In the Rolling Stone article, McChrystal didn't criticize Obama
himself but called the period last fall when the president was
deciding whether to approve more troops "painful" and said Obama
appeared ready to hand him an "unsellable" position.
McChrystal also said he was "betrayed" by Ambassador Karl
Eikenberry, the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic
partner in Afghanistan. He accused Eikenberry of raising doubts
about Karzai only to give himself cover in case the U.S. effort
failed. "Now, if we fail, they can say 'I told you so,"'
McChrystal told the magazine. And he was quoted mocking Vice
President Joe Biden.
If not insubordination, the remarks - as well as even sharper
commentary about Obama and his White House from several in
McChrystal's inner circle - were at least an indirect and
extraordinary challenge and one that consumed Washington on
Tuesday. The capital hasn't seen a similar public contretemps
between a president and a top wartime commander since Harry Truman
stripped Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his command more than a
half-century ago after disagreements over Korean War strategy.
Notably, neither McChrystal nor his team questioned the accuracy
of the story or the quotes in it. McChrystal issued an apology.
Military leaders rarely challenge their commanders in chief
publicly. When they do, consequences tend to be more severe than a
Indeed, the presidential spokesman's prepared reaction to the
article was remarkably revealing, even for the normally coded
language of Washington. Press secretary Robert Gibbs repeatedly
declined to say McChrystal's job was safe, and questioned whether
McChrystal is "capable and mature enough" to lead the war.
"Our efforts in Afghanistan are bigger than one person," Gibbs
told reporters, a formulation typically used when one person is
about to leave.
Gates said in a statement that McChrystal had made "a
A senior U.S. military official in Afghanistan told The
Associated Press that McChrystal - who had not spoken with Obama on
the matter before Wednesday - has been given no indication that
he'll be fired but no assurance he won't be. The official spoke on
condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions between
Washington and the general's office in Kabul.
Obama raised the issue of McChrystal's future in a phone call
with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday night,
Cameron's office said Wednesday without disclosing what was said.
Britain has about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, the largest
international force after the United States.
McChrystal was viewed as a visionary with the guts and smarts to
turn around the beleaguered, 8-year-old Afghanistan war when he was
chosen to take over last year.
But despite his military achievements, he has a history of
making waves. This is not his first brush with Obama's anger. Last
fall, the president scolded McChrystal for speaking too bluntly
about his desire for more troops.
Wisconsin Democratic Rep. David Obey, chairman of the House
Appropriations Committee, called for McChrystal to resign. Sen.
John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services
Committee, was among three prominent Republican senators to
criticize the general and say a decision about his future should
rest with Obama.
Several names circulated among Pentagon and Capitol Hill aides
as potential successors, including Gen. James Mattis, Joint Forces
Command chief; Lt. Gen. John Allen, the No. 2 at U.S. Central
Command; Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, McChrystal's No. 2 in
Afghanistan; Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the Army Training
and Doctrine Command; and Adm. James Stavridis, the top NATO
commander in Europe.
Military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of
the White House meeting, said the administration had not reached
out to possible successors but might do so Wednesday.