President Obama fires Gen McChrystal

US President Barack Obama fired his top Afghanistan commander over inflammatory comments that angered the White House.

Agencies June 24, 2010

US President Barack Obama fired his top Afghanistan commander on Wednesday over inflammatory comments that angered the White House and threatened to undermine the war effort.

Calling it the “right thing for our mission in Afghanistan,” Obama relieved General Stanley McChrystal of his command after a 30-minute meeting at the White House and named General David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, to replace him.

McChrystal had been summoned by Obama to explain remarks he and his aides made in a magazine article that disparaged the US president and other senior civilian leaders. “The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general,” Obama said in the White House Rose Garden.

“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 work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan,” he said.

The US president also warned that he would not tolerate division in his administration over Afghanistan. “I welcome debate among my team, but I won’t tolerate division,” added.

About McChrystal’s replacement, Obama said General David Petraeus “is setting an extraordinary example of service and patriotism by assuming this difficult post.”

The situation posed a dilemma for Obama. If McChrystal had kept his job, the president could have been seen as tolerating insubordination from the military. But by firing him, Obama is shaking up the chain of command at a perilous moment in the unpopular 9-year-old war.

Vowing not to tolerate divisions within his national security team, Obama said the switch in generals was a “change in personnel but it is not a change in policy.”

“General Petraeus fully participated in our review last fall and he both supported and helped design the strategy that we have in place. And in his current post at (US) Central Command, he has worked closely with our forces in Afghanistan,” Obama said.

There have been increasing doubts among US lawmakers about Obama’s troop buildup strategy against a resurgent Taliban.

McChrystal first met Defence Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon before entering the White House through a side door for his one-on-one meeting with Obama. He left before Obama’s Afghanistan war council, which he had been due to attend, convened in late morning.

Obama had been described by aides as furious about the Rolling Stone magazine article, but said in his Rose Garden appearance that he was not acting out of a feeling of personal insult.

Amid harsh criticism over McChrystal’s contemptuous remarks, US officials had said they expected the general, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan and architect of Obama’s war strategy, to offer his resignation and allow the president to decide whether to accept it.

With his career on the line, the 55-year-old general apologised. “It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened,” McChrystal said in a statement.

In Brussels, Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the alliance will maintain its approach to Afghanistan after the sacking of General McChrystal. “While he will no longer be the commander, the approach he helped put in place is the right one,” Rasmussen said of General McChrystal in a statement.

“The strategy continues to have Nato’s support and our forces will continue to carry it out.”

In Kabul, a presidential spokesperson said that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is “looking forward” to working with General David Petraeus as commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan after the sacking of General Stanley McChrystal. “Since it was a US government internal decision we respect it. His replacement General David Petraeus is someone who knows Afghanistan, who knows the region very well and is an experienced general,” presidential spokesperson Waheed Omar told AFP.

“We are looking forward to working with him,” he added.


Karim Khan | 11 years ago | Reply This defines the relative weight of a democratically elected leader against a top military official in America. And yet, the president's decision sounds rash and intolerant of criticism.
Zainab Ali | 11 years ago | Reply By giving such remarks the previous commander of the US troops in Afghanistan actually undermined the efforts of the US and its allies, who are carrying forward this war on terrorism from the past 9 years.
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