President Barack Obama fired his top Afghanistan commander yesterday over inflammatory comments that angered the White House and threatened to undermine the war effort.
Calling it the “right thing for our mission in Afghanistan,” Obama relieved Gen. Stanley McChrystal of duty and replaced him with his boss, General David Petraeus, in a bid to show his strategy would not be disrupted.
Obama had summoned McChrystal to the White House from Afghanistan to explain remarks he and his aides made in a Rolling Stone magazine article that disparaged the president and other civilian leaders.
“The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general,” Obama said in the White House Rose Garden as he announced McChrystal’s dismissal.
“It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan,” he said.
The situation posed a dilemma for Obama. If McChrystal had kept his job, the president could have been seen as tolerating insubordination from the military. But by firing him, Obama is shaking up the chain of command at a perilous moment in the unpopular 9-year-old war.
Vowing not to tolerate divisions within his national security team, Obama said the switch in generals was a “change in personnel but it is not a change in policy.” There have been increasing doubts among U.S. lawmakers about Obama’s troop buildup strategy against a resurgent Taliban.