Brad Norington / The Australian – 2010-07-10 18:36:37
WASHINGTON (June 24, 2010) — Barack Obama has sacked his top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, over an interview that mocked his administration.
The US President today announced that General David Petraeus, currently head of central command for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was his pick to replace General McChrystal.
In comments delivered in the Rose Garden of the White House, Mr Obama said he had relieved General McChrystal of his command because war was bigger than one person and he believed he had made the right decision in the interests of national security.
“The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general,” the President said.
“It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.”
General McChrystal today offered his resignation when he met Mr Obama in a private meeting after the President had recalled the top commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan from Kabul to explain himself after making damaging comments for a profile published for Rolling Stone magazine.
In the magazine interview, the general ridiculed Vice President Joe Biden, White House envoy to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke and US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry. Members of General McChrystal’s staff said that their boss had failed to engage with Mr Obama from the outset and believed the president had been unprepared for their first meeting last year soon after the general’s appointment. The general’s staff also called Mr Obama’s national security adviser James Jones a “clown”.
Mr Obama said he accepted General McChrystal’s resignation with regret after great admiration for his long record of service.
The President stressed that his decision was not based on any difference of policy because he and the general were in full agreement about the strategy in Afhanistan. Nor did he make the decision out of any sense of personal insult, he said.
He said his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief to the troops fighting the war and to the democratic institutions he had been elected to serve had led him to his decision.
“I’ve got no greater honour than serving as Commander-in-Chief of our men and women in uniform, and it is my duty to ensure that no diversion complicates the vital mission that they are carrying out.
“That includes adherence to a strict code of conduct. The strength and greatness of our military is rooted in the fact that this code applies equally to newly enlisted privates and to the general office who commands them.”
The appointment of General Petraeus today could appear a demotion after he was previously commander of US forces in Iraq and had been elevated to head central command and become responsible overall for conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
But Mr Obama’s decision to anoint General Petraeus today indicates the importance attached to the Afghanistan war by the White House. It is also an attempt by the President to ensure a relatively seamless transition by having a general take over who knows the region and the conflict well and has the respect of troops.
Mr Obama said he was extraordinarily grateful that General Petraeus had agreed serve in this new capacity. “This is a change in personnel but it is not a change in policy,” Mr Obama said.
The President’s nomination of General Petraeus still requires official confirmation by the US Senate before he can take over, but his appointment is expected to be approved quickly.
Mr Obama appointed General McChrystal only a year ago and granted most of what he wanted to continue fighting the Afghan conflict by agreeing to 30,000 additional troops in December. His comments to Rolling Stone were considered a step too far, making it impossible for the general to work with the civilian US leadership.
General Petraeus participated in last year’s review of the Afghan war. Mr Obama said he had helped design the counterinsurgency strategy now in place.
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