Sunday 22 October 2017

Obama sacks general over scathing interview

General Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Getty Images
General Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Getty Images

Toby Harnden in Washington

President Barack Obama sacked General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, yesterday over comments made in a magazine interview.

In what could become a defining moment for his presidency, Mr Obama said he had accepted Gen McChrystal's resignation "with considerable regret but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military and for the country".

Gen McChrystal was immediately replaced by General David Petraeus, the architect of the successful Iraq surge in 2007.

Standing with Gen Petraeus outside the White House after his meeting with Gen McChrystal, Mr Obama said: "War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general or president. As difficult as it is to lose Gen McChrystal, I believe it is the right decision for national security."

Gen McChrystal had been summoned from Kabul to be dismissed after he and anonymous aides were quoted in a 'Rolling Stone' magazine article.

They criticised Vice-President Joe Biden, Richard Holbrooke, Mr Obama's regional envoy, Karl Eikenberry, US ambassador to Afghanistan, and General Jim Jones, the national security adviser.



Mocked

An aide for McChrystal even mocked Mr Obama himself, stating he looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by senior officers and had not seemed "very engaged" when he met the general for the first time.

Gen McChrystal offered his resignation as he flew to Washington and formally tendered it to Mr Obama in the Oval Office. However, his abject public apologies proved to be insufficient to prevent Mr Obama from accepting it.

Gen Petraeus, the former commander of US forces in Iraq, will step down as head of the US Central Command in what is technically a demotion but puts him at the very centre of American foreign policy.

Lt Gen Nick Parker, the British deputy commander of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force, has taken interim command.

Mr Obama said he had not acted out of "any sense of personal insult" and stressed that the change in leadership should not be seen as signalling a shift in his war strategy in Afghanistan.

The decision to fire Gen McChrystal will be seen as one of the most momentous decisions of Mr Obama's presidency. Democrats tried to force Mr Obama's hands by arguing that he would be seen as a "wimp" if he did not reassert his authority.

It comes at a time when the president's Afghan surge strategy is faltering. Gen McChrystal delayed the summer offensive on Kandahar and said that Marja, which was "cleared" in a major operation at the start of the year, was a "bleeding ulcer". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

president sends a tough message, page 27

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