Top Afghan Commander Summoned to Washington to Explain Criticism of White House

June 22, 2010 - 7:53 AM
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has issued an apology for his comments, has been ordered to attend the monthly White House meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in person Wednesday so he can discuss his comments with President Barack Obama and top Pentagon officials.
McChrystal, Eikenberry

Commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry brief reporters ahead of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to the White House on May 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Washington (AP) - The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has been summoned to Washington to explain his controversial comments about colleagues in a recent interview, Obama administration officials said Tuesday.
 
The officials say Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has issued an apology for his comments, has been ordered to attend the monthly White House meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in person Wednesday rather than over a secure video teleconference, so he can discuss his comments with President Barack Obama and top Pentagon officials.
 
The officials spoke condition of anonymity to discuss the general's schedule.
 
An article in this week's Rolling Stone magazine depicts McChrystal as a lone wolf on the outs with many important figures in the Obama administration and unable to persuade even some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the war.
 
In the interview, McChrystal is described by an aide as "disappointed" in his first Oval Office meeting with President Barack Obama. The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Obama called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.
 
"I found that time painful," McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. "I was selling an unsellable position."
 
In Kabul on Tuesday, McChrystal issued a statement saying: "I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened."
 
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen talked with McChrystal about the article Monday night, Capt. John Kirby, Mullen's spokesman said Tuesday.
 
In a 10-minute conversation, the chairman "expressed his deep disappointment in the piece and the comments" in it, Kirby said.
 
The Rolling Stone profile, titled "The Runaway General," emerged from several weeks of interviews and travel with McChrystal's tight circle of aides this spring.
 
It includes a list of administration figures said to back McChrystal, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and puts Vice President Joe Biden at the top of a list of those who don't.
 
The article claims McChrystal has seized control of the war "by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House."
 
Biden initially opposed McChrystal's proposal for additional forces last year. He favored a narrower focus on hunting terrorists.
 
In the interview, McChrystal he said he felt betrayed by the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. If Eikenberry had the same doubts, McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counterinsurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.
 
McChrystal accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.
 
"Here's one that covers his flank for the history books," McChrystal told the magazine. "Now, if we fail, they can say 'I told you so.'"
 
There was no immediate response from Eikenberry.
 
Eikenberry remains in his post in Kabul, and although both men publicly say they are friends, their rift is on full display.
 
McChrystal and Eikenberry, himself a retired Army general, stood as far apart as the speakers' platform would allow during a White House news conference last month.
 
Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan only after months of study that many in the military found frustrating. And the White House's troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing them home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.
 
McChrystal said Tuesday, "I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome."