President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that Gen. Stanley McChrystal stepped down from his post as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and that Gen. David Petraeus, head of the Central Command, will take over the war effort.
McChrystal’s abrupt departure comes as he has been facing increasing scrutiny over damaging comments that he and his staff made about administration officials in an upcoming Rolling Stone magazine article.
“Today, I accepted Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resignation. I did so with considerable regret, but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our country,” Obama said during remarks in the Rose Garden.
The president said the move is “a change in personnel, but it is not a change in policy.” He praised McChrystal as someone he has come to “respect and admire” but said his conduct does not meet the strict standards of a controlling general and erodes trust among the national security team. In naming Petraeus to succeed McChrystal, Obama named a popular military figure who is expected to win swift confirmation for the job from the Senate.
“I welcome debate among my team but I won’t tolerate division,” the president said.
Obama met privately with McChrystal earlier Wednesday to discuss the matter. The general was scheduled to attend a key war council meeting right afterward, but he left the White House abruptly after his one-on-one with the president.
Among the damaging comments in the Rolling Stone article: One McChrystal aide called National Security Adviser James Jones a “clown” and another referred to Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke as “a wounded animal.” And McChrystal himself said of his diplomatic partner, Afghanistan Ambassador Karl Eikenberry: “Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, I told you so.'”
McChrystal triggered a wave of bipartisan criticism on Capitol Hill on Tuesday over his remarks, but only a handful of Democrats called outright for his resignation.
Among them was House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.), who cited a pattern of insubordination by the general. “If he actually said half of what is being reported, he shouldn’t be in the position he is in,” he said.