Tuesday, June 22, 2010
McChrystal to Washington to explain anti-administration comments
What the hell is going on in this administration?! Seriously, when it gets to this level of general officer insubordination the situation is completely out of control. Obama has no clue and probably no interest in actually running a war successfully. By Ernesto Londoño and Michael D. Shear Washington Post Foreign Service Tuesday, June 22, 2010; 9:12 AM KABUL -- The top U.S. general in Afghanistan was summoned to Washington for a White House meeting after apologizing Tuesday for flippant and dismissive remarks about top Obama administration officials involved in Afghanistan policy. The remarks in an article in this week's in Rolling Stone magazine are certain to increase tension between the White House and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. The profile of McChrystal, , titled the "Runaway General," also raises fresh questions about the judgment and leadership style of the commander Obama appointed last year in an effort to turn around a worsening conflict. McChrystal and some of his senior advisors are quoted criticizing top administration officials, at times in starkly derisive terms. An anonymous McChrystal aide is quoted calling national security adviser James Jones a "clown," who remains "stuck in 1985." Referring to Richard Holbrooke, Obama's senior envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, one McChrystal aide is quoted saying: "The Boss says he's like a wounded animal. Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous." On one occasion, McChrystal appears to react with exasperation when he receives an e-mail from Holbrooke, saying, "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke. I don't even want to read it." U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, a retired three-star general, isn't spared. Referring to a leaked cable from Eikenberry that expressed concerns about the trustworthiness of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, McChrystal is quoted as having said: "Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, 'I told you so.' " The magazine hits newsstands Friday and could be posted online earlier in the week. The Washington Post received an advance copy of the article from its author, Michael Hastings, a freelance journalist who has written for the Post. "I extend my sincerest apology for this profile," McChrystal said in a statement issued Tuesday morning. "It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and it should have never happened." McChrystal's civilian press aide, Duncan Boothby, submitted his resignation Tuesday as a result of the article, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity. A U.S. embassy spokeswoman said she had no immediate comment on the piece. The story features an exchange in which McChrystal and some of his aides appear to mock Vice President Biden, who opposed McChrystal's troop surge recommendation last year and instead urged instead for a more focused emphasis on counter-terrorism operations. "Are you asking me about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal asks the profile's reporter a at one point, laughing. "Who's that?" "Biden?" an unnamed aide is quoted as saying. "Did you say Bite me?" Lt. Col. Joseph Breasseale, a U.S. military spokesman, said McChrystal called Biden and other senior administration officials Tuesday morning (Monday evening in Washington) in reference to the article. "After these discussions, he decided to travel to the U.S. for a meeting," the spokesman said in an e-mail. Officials in Washington who were familiar with the situation said the general apologized during the phone call. Biden has been highly skeptical of McChrystal's insistence that more troops be sent to Afghanistan. McChrystal's remarks were made public on the eve of the president's monthly meeting with his top advisers on Afghanistan, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday. McChrystal typically joins that meeting by a secure videoconference from Afghanistan, but was summoned to Washington to participate directly and explain his remarks, a senior administration official said Tuesday morning. The meeting, which includes Biden and many of the other advisers who McChrystal or his staff mocked in the article, is sure to be tense as the general attempts to make amends in person. It is not the first time that McChrystal has had to be dressed down by Obama. Shortly after the general's assessment of the situation in Afghanistan was made public last year, McChrystal gave a speech in London in which he publicly criticized those who advocated a scaled-back effort in Afghanistan. Those comments were widely seen as being directed against Biden, who had advocated for an approach in the country which focused on targeting terrorists more narrowly. After that speech, an angry Obama summoned McChrystal to a face-to-face meeting on Air Force One in Copenhagen, where Obama had arrived to pitch Chicago's Olympic bid. White House officials declined to comment publicly Tuesday morning, but the latest public relations blunder by McChrystal is sure to further strain his relationship with a president who puts a premium on message discipline and loyalty. The timing of the piece could hardly be worse. Amid a flurry of bad news in Afghanistan and a jump in NATO casualties, U.S. lawmakers and senior officials from NATO allied countries are asking increasingly sharp questions about the U.S.-led war strategy. Dutch and Canadian troops are scheduled to pull out within the next year. And the White House has said it will start drawing down U.S. forces next July. The magazine story shows that McChrystal is also facing criticism from some of his own troops who have grown frustrated with new rules that force commanders be extraordinarily judicious in using lethal force. A few weeks ago, according to the magazine, the general traveled to a small outpost in Kandahar province, in southern Afghanistan, to meet with a unit of soldiers reeling from the loss of a comrade, 23-year-old Cpl. Michael Ingram. The corporal was killed in a booby-trapped house that some of the unit's commanders had unsuccessfully sought permission to blow up. One soldier at the outpost showed Hastings, who was traveling with the general, a written directive instructing troops to "patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourself with lethal force." During a tense meeting with Ingram's platoon, one sergeant tells McChrystal: "Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we're losing, sir." McChrystal has championed a counterinsurgency strategy that prioritizes protecting the population as a means to marginalize and ultimately defeat the insurgency. Because new rules sharply restrict the circumstances under which air strikes and other lethal operations that have resulted in civilian casualties can be conducted, some soldiers say the strategy has left them more exposed. June is on track to be the deadliest month for NATO troops in Afghanistan since the war began nearly nine years ago. At least 63 NATO troops have been killed so far this month, including 10 who died Monday in a helicopter crash and a series of attacks. In his statement, McChrystal says he has "enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team." "Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity," the general said. "What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard."