KABUL — The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan was recalled to Washington on Tuesday after he was forced to make a "sincerest apology" over a magazine article in which he and unnamed aides criticized and lampooned senior Obama administration officials.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in charge of the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan, managed last year to persuade Obama to send thousands more American troops to the conflict to back his new counter-insurgency strategy to rescue the failing war there.
In the article, in the forthcoming issue of Rolling Stone magazine, an aide ridicules Vice President Joe Biden — who had opposed the troop surge for Afghanistan — while another aide described U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ricahrd Holbrooke as a “wounded animal.” McChrystal is quoted saying that the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, who also opposed the extra troops, “covers his flank for the history books.” An aide calls national security adviser James Jones, a retired general, a “clown." Only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gets good reviews from McChrystal’s staff.
“It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard,” McChrystal said in a statement.
“I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome.”
McChrystal last night individually called all those disparaged in the article to apologize. "He spoke to everyone but the president," one military official said.
McChrystal’s strategy to stabilize Afghanistan is already shaky, with mixed results from his first major operation, in Helmand province, and questions being asked over the upcoming offensive in Kandahar.
NATO was quick to make clear that it continued to support the American general.
NATO spokesman James Appathurai said: “It is a rather unfortunate article, but it is just an article. We are in the middle of a very real conflict, and the Secretary General has full confidence in General McChrystal as the NATO Commanders and in his strategy”.