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Americas

Obama holds talks with McChrystal over critical remarks

Video by Aurore Cloe DUPUIS

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-23

The top US commander in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, met with President Barack Obama on Wednesday amid speculation that the general will lose his post after it emerged that he and top aides criticised administration officials in an interview.

 

REUTERS - U.S. President Barack Obama met his top Afghanistan commander on Wednesday to decide whether to fire him over inflammatory comments that angered the White House and threatened to undermine the war effort.
 
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, summoned to explain remarks he and his aides made in a magazine article that disparaged Obama and other senior civilian leaders, held a 30-minute session with the president in the Oval Office before getting into a car and leaving the White House.
 
There was no word on whether Obama had determined McChrystal's fate.
 
The situation poses a dilemma for Obama. If McChrystal keeps his job, the president could be seen as tolerating insubordination from the military. If he fires him, it would mean shaking up the chain of command at a perilous moment in the unpopular 9-year-old war.
 
McChrystal met earlier on Wednesday with Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon before going to the White House and entering through a side door for the one-on-one meeting with Obama. The general left the White House before a scheduled 11:35 a.m. (1535 GMT) session of Obama's Afghanistan war council that he had been ordered to attend in person.
 
Obama, described as furious about the Rolling Stone magazine article in private, issued a stern rebuke to McChrystal on Tuesday, saying he wanted to talk directly to the general before making a final decision.
 
"I think it's clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed poor judgment," Obama told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.
 
U.S. officials had said they expected McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan and architect of Obama's war strategy, to offer his resignation and allow the president to to decide whether to accept it.
 
With his career on the line, the 55-year-old general has apologized. "It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened," McChrystal said in a statement.
 
In the article entitled "The Runaway General" McChrystal himself makes belittling remarks about Vice President Joe Biden and the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke. His aides are quoted as calling one top Obama official a "clown" and another a "wounded animal."
 
Growing doubts on war effort
 
Afghanistan had slipped down Obama's policy agenda recently as he focused on domestic challenges like high unemployment and the devastating BP Plc oil spill, seen as critical to avoiding big losses for his Democratic Party in November's congressional elections.
 
But the furor surrounding McChrystal comes amid growing doubts in Congress and declining support among the public for the war effort in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is resurgent despite a troop buildup ordered by Obama six months ago.
 
Obama is mindful that success or failure in Afghanistan will be a major part of his foreign policy legacy.
 
The article surfaced on the eve of Obama's monthly meeting with his Afghanistan advisers. McChrystal typically joins by teleconference but Obama called him on the carpet, ordering him to fly in and participate directly. The broader meeting includes many of the Obama aides denigrated by McChrystal and his staff in the article.
 
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said McChrystal made a "profound" mistake and "all options were on the table" with regard to his fate.
 
Obama was more cautious, saying the success of the war effort in Afghanistan would be uppermost in any decision.
 
McChrystal's departure would add to uncertainty about the course of the war. The controversy could also weaken Obama, making him look soft on insubordination if he lets McChrystal stay or irresponsible if he fires the top general assigned to implement his own strategy.

 

Date created : 2010-06-23

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