Thursday, June 24, 2010

DTN News: 'Angry' Obama Summons McChrystal Over Scathing Interview

Defense News: DTN News: 'Angry' Obama Summons McChrystal Over Scathing Interview
Source: DTN News / AFP
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - June 22, 2010: The future of the US military commander in Afghanistan hung in the balance Tuesday over a damaging interview in which he and top aides mocked and criticized the Obama administration.
General Stanley McChrystal was summoned to the White House on Wednesday to explain himself as President Barack Obama weighed two difficult options, firing a general at a critical moment or tolerating defiance from a top commander.
The unflattering article in Rolling Stone magazine brought to the surface lingering tensions between McChrystal and the White House just as the US deploys 30,000 more troops to the war now in its ninth year.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama was "angry" when he read the article late Monday, and refused to rule out that the commander-in-chief would sack McChrystal for what amounted to insubordination.
"General McChrystal has fought bravely on behalf of this country for a long time. Nobody could or should take that away from him, and nobody will," Gibbs said.
"But there has clearly been an enormous mistake in judgment to which he's going to have to answer to."
After issuing a groveling apology, McChrystal planned to rush back from Kabul to attend in person Wednesday's monthly war briefing -- normally a video-conference that he hooks up to from his Kabul headquarters.
"I have recalled General McChrystal to Washington to discuss this in person," said Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a terse statement. "I believe that General McChrystal made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case."
In the profile entitled "The Runaway General," McChrystal aides mock Vice President Jose Biden, call the president's national security adviser "a clown," and say the general was "disappointed" by his first meeting with Obama.
McChrystal himself is quoted as saying he felt "betrayed" by US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, a former commander in Afghanistan who raised pointed objections to his onetime subordinate's war strategy.
An unnamed McChrystal adviser says in the article that the general came away unimpressed after meeting with Obama in the Oval Office a year ago.
"It was a 10-minute photo op," the general's adviser says. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was... he didn't seem very engaged."
Leaving McChrystal with yet more explaining to do when he meets Obama face-to-face on Wednesday, the article quotes unnamed sources saying he thought the president looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" at an initial meeting with top brass.
McChrystal issued a statement late Monday apologizing for his remarks and one of his media officers, a civilian, has already resigned over the episode, but the fallout is unlikely to stop there.
"The magnitude and graveness of this mistake are profound," said Gibbs.
Three leading hawks in Congress condemned the general's remarks, with Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham, along with independent Joe Lieberman, saying McChrystal's comments were "inconsistent with the traditional relationship between commander-in-chief and the military."
But the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, said the article pointed to personality differences and "do not reflect differences in policy on prosecuting the war."
Prompting concerns about strains in civilian-military relations, McChrystal already received a dressing down from Obama last year over his remarks at a London conference in which he appeared to reject Biden's argument in favor of fewer troops in Afghanistan.
In the article McChrystal pretended to rehearse an answer to questions referring to the vice president.
"'Are you asking about Vice President Biden?' McChrystal says with a laugh. 'Who's that?'" the article quotes him as saying.
"'Biden?' suggests a top adviser. 'Did you say: Bite Me?'"
In Kabul, Eikenberry said through a spokeswoman that he remains "fully committed" to working with McChrystal, despite the scathing criticism.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also backed McChrystal, with his spokesman saying: "The Rolling Stone article is rather unfortunate, but it is just an article.
"We are in the middle of a very real conflict, and the Secretary General has full confidence in General McChrystal as the NATO commander, and in his strategy."

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