WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday that Gen. Stanley McChrystal left President Barack Obama no choice but to accept his resignation, but Graham criticized Obama for sticking to his plans to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan next year.
Graham, an Air Force Reserve colonel and a military lawyer who's the only member of Congress to have served active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, stopped just short of accusing McChrystal of insubordination for his derisive comments about Obama and his aides in a Rolling Stone magazine article.
"When it comes to why the president had to act, the statements of the general not only were outside the norm, they really did put in question military subordination to civilian control," Graham said.
Graham, though, rebuked Obama for continuing to say that he'll start a drawdown of U.S. troops next summer.
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"The July 11, 2011, policy is confusing," Graham said. "It undercuts the war effort. It empowers our enemies. It confuses our friends. And I think it needs to be re-evaluated."
Graham, R-S.C., appeared with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., all three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, at a crowded news conference at the Capitol.
"I've been a military officer most of my adult life, and there's lines you can't cross," Graham said. "Those lines were crossed. It was poor judgment, but it was beyond poor judgment. It made it virtually impossible for the general to stay in his job."
The three senators, who've taken numerous trips together to Afghanistan, lauded Obama's decision to replace McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Petraeus, currently the commander of U.S. Central Command, crafted and led the 2007 U.S. military surge in Iraq as the commander of American forces there. His appointment must be confirmed by the Senate.
Graham, who'd come to know Petraeus and McChrystal from his tours of duty helping the Afghan government develop its judicial system, implored Obama to make other U.S. personnel changes in Afghanistan.
"I would urge the president to look at this as a chance to put new people on the ground without old baggage," Graham said. "And if we don't change quickly, we're going to lose a war we can't afford to lose."
Graham, however, wouldn't say whether Obama should replace Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and special envoy Richard Holbrooke, whom McChrystal and his staff also disparaged in the Rolling Stone article.
"I'll leave that to the president," Graham said.