Reactions to McChrystal’s dismissal

Politicians and commentators are split on the US commander’s unusual criticism of Washington.

McChrystal has been at odds with Obama in the past over strategy in Afghanistan [EPA]

Barack Obama, the US president, has relieved General Stanley McChrystal of his command of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan. His dismissal comes one day after an article in Rolling Stone magazine in which McChrystal mocked officials in the US administration.

It was not the first time McChrystal has been at odds with Obama. Towards the end of 2009, Obama rebuked the general for speaking openly about wanting more troops in Afghanistan.

Here is some of the reaction to McChrystal’s firing, and the Rolling Stone article that preceded it.

 Mark Sedwill, Nato’s senior civilian representative to Afghanistan

Stan McChrystal is one of the finest men I have ever known. He is and will remain a lifelong friend.

General McChrystal has also been an outstanding military commander who was pivotal in creating and driving forward Nato’s strategy in Afghanistan to regain the initiative against the insurgency, resolve the political tensions which fuel it and transition responsibility to the government of Afghanistan as we help build their capabilities.

This strategy remains the basis of the campaign. The campaign remains on course. The Afghan people should have no doubt of our commitment to build a stable Afghanistan and a safer world.

I look forward to working with General David Petraeus whose remarkable track record speaks for itself. He will provide the continuity and strong leadership required to meet the challenges ahead.

 Carl Bildt, Swedish foreign minister

It’s a regrettable development. We have appreciated and supported the approach initiated by General McChrystal.

I have read the article mentioned, and the only quote of General McChrystal I’ve noticed, is that he notices he gets “another e-mail” from Richard Holbrooke. The rest is said by other people. Let’s say that I have myself worked with Holbrooke through the years, so I understand the sentiment expressed.

I’m not the American authorities, but I wouldn’t bother too much.

 James Appathurai, Nato spokesperson

From Nato’s point of view, General McCrystal did a very very good job. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary-general, had confidence in him. But obviously this is a separate track, an American track.

Rasmussen knows General Petraeus, met him in Baghdad, has full confidence in him and spoke to the White House before his nomination was announced to give his endorsement of it. So we look forward to working with him.

 Waheed Omar, spokesman for Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president

Since it was a US government internal decision we respect it. His replacement General David Petraeus [as commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan] is someone who knows Afghanistan, who knows the region very well and is an exprienced general. We are looking forward to working with him.

 David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee

If he actually said half of what is being reported, he shouldn’t be in the position he is in. In apologising this morning, McChrystal said his comments were “a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 Eric Cantor, congressional Republican and House minority whip

Obviously a general and his top brass don’t make statements like these without being frustrated, so I hope that the president’s meeting with General McChrystal will include a frank discussion about what is happening on the ground, and whether the resources and the plan are there to defeat terrorists and accomplish our mission in Afghanistan.

 Carl Levin, chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee

He needs to explain a lot to the secretary of defence and the president of the United States … It was personality conflicts, but again, personality conflicts can have a negative effect on implementation of a policy, and that is what you have got to worry about.

 Gen Mohammad Zahir Azimi, Afghan defence ministry spokesman

Since General McChrystal has arrived in Afghanistan as Isaf [International Security Assistance Force] commander there have been enormous changes in different areas and these changes have been very important and positive.

For instance, civilian deaths have decreased and we are still working together with General McChrystal to further reduce this.

We are hopeful that the United States will pay attention to the concerns of the people of Afghanistan.

 Tom Ricks, military analyst

I do wonder if this mess is the result of leaving McChrystal out there too long. He has been going non-stop for several years, first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan.

 Kori Schake, Foreign Policy magazine

McChrystal didn’t commit treason, which is what the political backlash makes it sound like. He didn’t disobey an order. He didn’t go outside his chain of command to undercut the president. He didn’t say he knew better than his elected leadership what needed to be done.

The article does give the war’s critics a rallying cry to call for the resignation of someone whose strategy they disagree with. This was McChrystal’s real blunder: giving his opponents something to use against his position. Those who oppose our deepening involvement in Afghanistan are calling for his resignation. But the president would be stupid to fire McChrystal.

 Jackson Diehl, Washington Post

If anyone deserves blame for the latest airing of the administration’s internal feuds over Afghanistan, it is President Obama.

For months Obama has tolerated deep divisions between his military and civilian aides over how to implement the counterinsurgency strategy he announced last December.

The divide has made it practically impossible to fashion a coherent politico-military plan, led to frequent disputes over tactics and contributed to a sharp deterioration in the administration’s relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

 David Shorr, fellow, The Stanley Foundation

Purely on the merits, the shocking displays of disrespect in the Rolling Stone article reveal an attitude that’s hard to square with the leadership with which General McChrystal’s been entrusted.

If he were in any other command, it wouldn’t be worth debating. This episode represents a very troubling distortion of the military’s relationship to civilian decision-making and the political process.

The only reason to keep McChrystal in place is if and only if removing him would be a greater disruption to the current operation and strategy than retaining him. If he’s replaceable, he should be replaced. And I think it’s important to acknowledge that, given the attitudes expressed in the article, keeping him in place itself represents a disruption.

 Richard Kemp, former commander of UK forces in Afghanistan

All military commanders will question the opinions and decisions of other military commanders and politicians and it is right they do so … but it must be done behind closed doors.

If it is done in public in this way, albeit inadvertently, all it will do is lead to a lack of confidence and cohesion within an alliance and a nation that is already severely questioning what is happening in Afghanistan.

I think that is certainly grounds for Obama to sack McChrystal in this case … I think the balance that has to be made is whether or not General McChrystal and his leadership of the campaign in Afghanistan is more important than the embarrassment that he has caused.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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