President Obama announced that Gen. Stanley McChrystal has been relieved from duty, a “difficult decision” reached in the aftermath of a Rolling Stone profile that ends his tenure as the top commander for the war Afghanistan.
“Today I accepted General McChrystal’s resignation,” Obama said in making public the decision this afternoon in the Rose Garden. MSNBC broke the news, also reporting that the president has selected Gen. David Petraeus to take over in Afghanistan. Petraeus, who led the mission in Iraq, stood at Obama’s side. “It is the right decision for our national security,” Obama said.
The president praised McChrystal’s service to the nation and said he had no “personal insult” from the Rolling Stone piece, but said the conduct described in Michael Hastings’ profile was unacceptable, “does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general,” and sets a poor example for the military’s rank-and-file.
In the article, Hastings describes McChrystal as being “disappointed” by a meeting with Obama and reported the general said the president seemed “uncomfortable and intimidated” by military brass. McChrystal also disparaged a French minister and mocked Vice President Joe Biden, but his aides did most of the damage.
Obama said what’s described in the article “erodes the trust that is necessary for us to work together,” and further, “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”
Obama said that McChrystal always has shown him “respect” and “great courtesy” while carrying out his military orders, and stressed the decision did not come easy. He said the two men agree on policy for a way to end the war, the longest in American history. McChrystal issued a statement following the president’s statement, saying he resigned to “see the mission succeed.”
“All Americans should be grateful for General McChrystal’s remarkable career in uniform,” Obama said, but “war is bigger than any one man or woman in uniform.” Obama stressed his goals for Afghanistan have not wavered: “This is a change in personnel but it is not a change in policy,” he said. Petraeus must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate for the new post.
It wasn’t a shock after a Washington morning that was the epitome of a summer spectacle, with live cable coverage of each movement of the beleaguered general. McChrystal hurried away from the White House after a 30-minute Oval Office session this morning to apologize to Obama, despite having been listed as an attendee of a meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan the following hour. After their private talk, Obama huddled in the Oval with advisers and Vice President Joe Biden before resuming the Situation Room meeting on the war.
Watch the president’s remarks:
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated since it was first published.