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Obama sacks US Afghan commander
Washington, Jun 24 (Agencies):
Published on 25 Jun. 2010 1:20 AM IST
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The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan was fired by President Obama yesterday over his attacks on the White House.
General Stanley McChrystal was removed from his post after a tense one-on-one meeting with Barack Obama in the Oval Office that lasted just 20 minutes. The President said it was the right decision for ‘national security’.
In a decisive move that was intended to reassert the President’s authority, Mr Obama said McChrystal’s conduct was unbecoming of a general.
‘I welcome debate about my team, but I won’t tolerate division,’ he said.
McChrystal made his controversial comments in a profile in Rolling Stone magazine titled Runaway General. It includes a list of administration figures said to back him, including Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and puts Vice President Joe Biden at the top of a list of those who do not.
The article claims Gen McChrystal has seized control of the war ‘by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House’. He says that the first time he met Mr Obama he found the President ‘unengaged’ and ‘disappointing’.
He is dismissive of Vice President Joe Biden, and either the general or some of his aides openly criticise other senior political and military figures.
McChrystal will not even get a chance to return to Afghanistan and will have his personal items shipped back to Washington.
His replacement is General David Petraeus, who led the ‘surge’ in Iraq, who has been asked to take a demotion from his current role as U.S. commander of central command. Mr Obama made clear the decision to axe McChrystal caused him ‘considerable regret’ but said he had no choice.
‘Conduct representative of the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general,’ he said.
‘It is my duty to ensure that no diversion complicates the vital mission… that includes a strict adherence to a code of conduct.’
The decision creates uncertainty over the war in Afghanistan at a time when the campaign is stalling and casualties are mounting. The stakes are also high for Mr Obama personally because he staked his presidency on success in Afghanistan when he assumed office.
McChrystal had been summoned from Afghanistan to the monthly strategy briefing in Washington but before it began he was seen entering the White House shortly before 10am.
He handed in his resignation, which was accepted, and left immediately.
McChrystal did not even attend the briefing at which he would have come face-to-face with four of the men he had criticised in the article.
The unprecedented row has sent shockwaves through Washington and the Pentagon. McChrystal has fired his press aide and apologised for his ‘poor judgment’ over the article, which told how his real enemy were ‘the wimps in the White House’.
In the profile, one of his aides is quoted as saying of Mr Obama’s senior envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke: ‘The Boss says he’s like a wounded animal.
‘Holbrooke keeps hearing rumours that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.’
Reacting to an email the envoy sent him, McChrystal says at one point: ‘Oh, not another email from Holbrooke. I don’t even want to read it.’
McChrystal is depicted as having no truck with those who are sceptical about his tactics, such as Mr Biden.
At one stage in the article he pretends to be dismissing Mr Biden from his post, saying: ‘Are you asking me about Vice President Biden? Who’s that?
Biden?’ an unnamed aide is quoted as saying. ‘Did you say, “Bite me”?’
Karl Eikenberry, a retired three-star general and U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, is accused of ‘betrayal’.
The appointment of General Petraeus, who was intimately involved in drawing up the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, must be confirmed by a Senate hearing.
In the meantime, a British general will take charge of the 140,000 Nato troops in Afghanistan.
Lieutenant General Sir Nick Parker became deputy commander of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan under McChrystal in November.
Only yesterday, before the scandal broke, he praised McChrystal, saying he had ‘brought a new approach and a sense of optimism to the International Security Assistance Force. He has reinvigorated operations by focusing on protecting the population’.
The sacking adds an air of crisis to talks between Mr Obama and David Cameron, due to take place this weekend when the pair meet for the first time on the world stage at the G8 and G20 summits in Canada.
Britain has signed up to McChrystal’s strategy and his sacking will lead to fresh questions about the commitment of the U.S. to the military campaign.
But last night Downing Street said Mr Cameron had spoken to Mr Obama and both governments ‘remain absolutely committed to the strategy in Afghanistan’.

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