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US general summoned to Washington
McChrystal's criticism of Obama officials in magazine interview labelled "profound mistake".
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2010 04:12 GMT


Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane reports on the US
reaction to the Rolling Stone article

The commander of US and Nato military forces in Afghanistan has been summoned to Washington after criticising the Obama administration in a magazine article.

The White House recalled General Stanley McChrystal from Afghanistan on Tuesday to explain comments he made in a Rolling Stone magazine interview to be published on Friday, military officials said.

The order came after McChrystal apologised for the controversial comments in the profile. He is quoted as criticising a senior diplomat, while his aides dismiss Barack Obama and mock his deputies.

"I extend my sincerest apology for this profile," McChrystal said in a statement issued in advance of the article's release.

"It was a mistake reflecting poor judgement and should never have happened."

The Obama administration reacted harshly to McChrystal's comments.

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said the interview was a "profound" mistake. He also said that "all options are on the table," including McChrystal's sacking, when Obama meets him on Wednesday.

And Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said McChrystal made "a significant mistake" with the interview. 

Strategy debate

A Nato spokesman earlier called the article "rather unfortunate", but said McChrystal has the full support of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary-general.

In video


Rolling Stone author Michael Hastings tells Al Jazeera what McChrystal was trying to achieve

Speaking from the Belgian capital, Brussels, James Appathurai told Al Jazeera: "Nato still has full confidence in General McChrystal."

"I think it's important to remember that these are commanders in the middle of a war zone, under enormous stress."

In the profile, McChrystal jokes sarcastically about preparing to answer a question referring to Joe Biden, the US vice-president, known to be a sceptic of the commander's war strategy.

He also told Rolling Stone that he felt "betrayed" by Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Kabul, in a White House debate over war strategy last year.

Referring to a leaked internal memo from Eikenberry that questioned McChrystal's request for more troops, the commander said that the ambassador had tried to protect himself for "for the history books".

"I like Karl, I've known him for years, but they'd never said anything like that to us before," McChrystal said in the article.

Eikenberry, himself a former commander in Afghanistan, had written to the White House saying Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, was an unreliable partner and that a surge of troops could draw the US into an open-ended quagmire.

Friction with administration

The article revisits the friction between the White House and the military last year as Obama debated whether to grant McChrystal's request for tens of thousands of reinforcements.

In video


Al Jazeera's James Bays reports on the article that sparked the controversy

Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from Kabul, said that McChrystal managed to offend every single one of his important bosses with the statements in the article.

He said that the Rolling Stone reporter managed to get high-level access.

"I met the reporter in Washington DC over a month ago after he came out of a meeting inside the White House with McChrystal's advisers," our correspondent said.

"This incident shows the tensions that exist between the top advisers here in Afghanistan. What will happen now is how this agreement is viewed on Capitol Hill and on the Afghan street.

"The Taliban is also trying to win over the Afghan people. There is certainly very little disunity normally in the Taliban."

Further turmoil

Meanwhile, as foreign forces in Afghanistan marked another grim milestone in their war against the Taliban, signs of cracks in the alliance surfaced.

In video


McChrystal spoke to Al Jazeera in December about the US strategy in Afghanistan

After 10 soldiers were killed in a single day, there was further turmoil for Nato as Britain announced that Sherard Cowper-Coles, its special envoy to Afghanistan, was taking "extended leave".

William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary, is to review the post of special envoy to Afghanistan, the BBC reported.

The news of Cowper-Coles's departure came amid reports that he had clashed with military officials over strategy, just a month before a crucial international conference in Kabul.

The Guardian newspaper reported there had been serious disagreements in recent months between Cowper-Coles and officials from Nato.

It said that Cowper-Coles was convinced the military-focused counterinsurgency effort was headed for failure and wanted talks with Taliban fighters to be a priority.

The Taliban, however, has so far rejected a plan drawn up at a landmark Kabul peace meeting to give jobs and money to those who lay down arms.

Last month the group promised a new campaign of attacks on diplomats, legislators and foreign forces.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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