US military commander in Afghanistan dismissed by President Obama

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

General Stanley McChrystal, the top military commander for the US army in Afghanistan, was dismissed by president Barack Obama Wednesday, over controversial comments he made in an interview with a magazine.

Stanley McChrystal
David Petraeus

McChrystal will be replaced by General David Petraeus. The move was made after McChrystal and the president held a thirty-minute meeting Wednesday to discuss McChrystal's comments to the Rolling Stone magazine, in which he was portrayed as dismissive about the administration's handling of the Afghanistan war.

In one comment, when asked about vice-president Joe Biden, the general replied with "Are you asking about Vice-President Biden? Who's that?"; in another remark, he mentions an email from the US' special Afghanistan and Pakistan representative, Richard Holbrook, saying: "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke [...] I don't even want to open it." One of the McChrystal's aides also described national security adviser James Jones as being a "clown... stuck in 1985".

Obama commented that the move was "a change in personnel but not a change in policy". "I believe it is the right decision for our national security. I don't make this decision based on any difference in policy with General McChrystal [...] nor do I make this decision out of any sense of personal insult," he said, commenting also: "The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system."

McChrystal, meanwhile, released a statement regarding the incident: "I strongly support the president's strategy in Afghanistan and am deeply committed to our coalition forces, our partner nations, and the Afghan people. It was out of respect for this commitment — and a desire to see the mission succeed — that I tendered my resignation."

The general's assistant who organised the Rolling Stone interview, Duncan Boothby, also resigned over the article.

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, meanwhile responded to Obama's move, saying he believed McChrystal was the best commander in the nine years since the US began operations in his country.

"General McChrystal was an important and trusted partner for the Afghan government and Afghan people and we hoped this wouldn't happen," said Waheed Omer, a spokesman for Karzai. "However, this is an internal matter for the US government and we respect the decision of President Obama. We are looking forward to working with General Petraeus, a very experienced soldier, who President Karzai knows well."


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