| GEO World|
| Obama says McChrystal used 'poor judgment'|
| Updated at: 0514 PST, Wednesday, June 23, 2010|
WASHINGTON: President Obama said Tuesday that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, his top commander in the Afghanistan war, "showed poor judgment" in his contribution to a magazine article in which McChrystal and his staff made negative comments about the president and his national security team — including a reference to Vice President Biden as "Bite Me."
"Gen. McChrystal is on his way here (to Washington) and I am going to meet with him — (Defense) Secretary (Robert) Gates will be meeting with him as well," Obama said of face-to-face discussions planned for Wednesday after word of the controversial article spread.
In response to a question from a reporter as to whether he planned to fire McChrystal, Obama said, "I think it's clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed poor judgment, but I also want to make sure that I talk to him before I make any final decisions."
The president added, however, that whatever decision he makes will take into consideration the sacrifice that men and women in the military are making in Afghanistan to bar al-Qaeda and affiliates from attacking the United States.
"Whatever decision that I make with respect to Gen. McChrystal ... is determined entirely on how I can make sure that we have a strategy that justifies the enormous courage and sacrifices that those men and women are making over there," Obama said.
Obama's sentiments were echoed earlier at the White House by Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs.
"The magnitude and greatness of the mistake here are profound," Gibbs told reporters, and declined to say whether McChrystal's job was secure. "All options are on the table," Gibbs said.
McChrystal is scheduled to appear at the White House on Wednesday for the weekly conference on the war and to explain the comments. Demanding his personal appearance — McChrystal typically participates by videoconference — underscores how seriously the White House considers the situation.
Gates, who recommended McChrystal for the Afghanistan job, said he believed "Gen. McChrystal made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case."
"We are fighting a war against al-Qaeda and its extremist allies, who directly threaten the United States, Afghanistan and our friends and allies around the world," Gates said. "Going forward, we must pursue this mission with a unity of purpose. Our troops and coalition partners are making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our security, and our singular focus must be on supporting them and succeeding in Afghanistan without such distractions."
The meeting comes as nearly 100,000 U.S. troops face insurgents who have mounted a record number of attacks.
McChrystal apologized Tuesday for "poor judgment" and for comments he and staffers made in an article that will appear in Rolling Stone magazine. Many of the controversial comments came as he and his staff spoke in hotel rooms and restaurants.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told McChrystal on Tuesday that he was "deeply disappointed" in the article and the comments, according to Mullen's spokesman, Capt. John Kirby.
McChrystal is Obama's second top commander in Afghanistan since Obama took office in January 2009. Last year, Obama fired the previous commander, Gen. David McKiernan. That was the first time a wartime commander was sacked in 50 years.
The comments about Biden are particularly sensitive. Biden has voiced skepticism about the troop-intensive counterinsurgency strategy.
TheWashington Post reported Tuesday that Duncan Boothby, McChrystal's top press aide, resigned Tuesday over his role in setting up the magazine interview.
The Rolling Stone story contends that McChrystal feels he and Obama do not have a close working relationship. It quotes an unnamed aide to McChrystal who says Obama was "not very engaged" when the two met.
Other incidents, according to the magazine:
•McChrystal accused Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the former top military commander in Afghanistan, of covering "his flank for the history books" by sending a cable that criticized McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The cable was leaked to TheNew York Times. "Now if we fail, they can say, 'We told you so,' " McChrystal reportedly said.
•An aide called Jim Jones, Obama's national security adviser and former Marine Corps commandant, a "clown" who remains "stuck in 1985."
•McChrystal and his staff jokingly discussed Biden. "Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal said. "Who's that?"
"Biden?" an aide unnamed by the magazine said. "Did you say, 'Bite Me'?"
McChrystal called several officials Tuesday, including Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to the region. In the article, McChrystal reportedly groaned when he received an e-mail from Holbrooke, saying, "I don't even want to open it."
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday that he had spoken with McChrystal and said Obama and McChrystal must have confidence in one another for the war effort to succeed.
"Everyone needs to take a deep breath and give the president and his national security team the space to decide what is in the best interest of our mission and to have their face-to-face discussion tomorrow without a premature Washington feeding frenzy," Kerry said.