USA — Obama Accepts McChrystal’s Resignation, Nominates Petraeus

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2010 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma today accept­ed Army Gen. Stan­ley A. McChrystal’s res­ig­na­tion as the top U.S. and NATO com­man­der in Afghanistan, call­ing it the right deci­sion for nation­al secu­ri­ty.

The pres­i­dent also announced that he has nom­i­nat­ed Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, to replace McChrys­tal in Afghanistan.

The deci­sion comes in the wake of a Rolling Stone mag­a­zine arti­cle that depicts McChrys­tal and mem­bers of his staff as being at odds with the president’s admin­is­tra­tion. “The con­duct rep­re­sent­ed in the recent­ly pub­lished arti­cle does not meet the stan­dard that should be set by a com­mand­ing gen­er­al,” Oba­ma said. “It under­mines the civil­ian con­trol of the mil­i­tary that is at the core of our demo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tem. And it erodes the trust that’s nec­es­sary for our team to work togeth­er to achieve our objec­tives in Afghanistan.” Oba­ma not­ed that his deci­sion wasn’t based on a dif­fer­ence in pol­i­cy or “any sense of per­son­al insult,” and he said he great­ly admires McChrys­tal for his decades of ser­vice. “Over the last nine years with Amer­i­ca fight­ing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has earned a rep­u­ta­tion as one of our nation’s finest sol­diers,” Oba­ma said. “But war is greater than any one man or woman, whether a pri­vate, a gen­er­al or a pres­i­dent. As dif­fi­cult as it is to lose Gen­er­al McChrys­tal, I believe it is the right deci­sion for our nation­al secu­ri­ty.”

Oba­ma said he didn’t make the deci­sion light­ly, not­ing the impor­tance of his respon­si­bil­i­ty to the “extra­or­di­nary men and women who are fight­ing this war.”

“I’ve got no greater hon­or than serv­ing as com­man­der in chief of our men and women in uni­form, and it is my duty to ensure that no diver­sion com­pli­cates the vital mis­sion that they are car­ry­ing out,” he said. “That includes adher­ence to a strict code of con­duct. The strength and great­ness of our mil­i­tary is root­ed in the fact that this code applies equal­ly to new­ly enlist­ed pri­vates and to the gen­er­al offi­cer who com­mands them. That allows us to come togeth­er as one. That is part of the rea­son why Amer­i­ca has the finest fight­ing force in the his­to­ry of the world.”

The pres­i­dent also not­ed his respon­si­bil­i­ty to do what­ev­er is need­ed to suc­ceed in Afghanistan and “in our broad­er effort to dis­rupt, dis­man­tle and defeat al-Qai­da.” “I believe that this mis­sion demands uni­ty of effort across our alliance and across my nation­al secu­ri­ty team,” he added.

The nation has a clear goal, the pres­i­dent said.

“We are going to break the Taliban’s momen­tum,” he said. “We are going to build Afghan capac­i­ty. We are going to relent­less­ly apply pres­sure on al-Qai­da and its lead­er­ship, strength­en­ing the abil­i­ty of both Afghanistan and Pak­istan to do the same.

“That’s the strat­e­gy that we agreed to last fall,” he con­tin­ued. “That is the pol­i­cy that we are car­ry­ing out in Afghanistan and Pak­istan.”

The pres­i­dent reit­er­at­ed that the change in lead­er­ship marks a change in per­son­nel, not pol­i­cy. Petraeus has been heav­i­ly involved in the devel­op­ment of the Afghanistan strat­e­gy, he not­ed.

“Gen­er­al Petraeus ful­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in our review last fall, and he both sup­port­ed and helped design the strat­e­gy that we have in place,” he said.

“In his cur­rent post at Cen­tral Com­mand, he has worked close­ly with our forces in Afghanistan, he has worked close­ly with Con­gress, he has worked close­ly with the Afghan and Pak­istan gov­ern­ments and with all our part­ners in the region,” Oba­ma con­tin­ued. “He has my full con­fi­dence. And I am urg­ing the Sen­ate to con­firm him for this new assign­ment as swift­ly as pos­si­ble.”

McChrys­tal pub­licly apol­o­gized yes­ter­day for the pro­file piece.

“It was a mis­take reflect­ing poor judg­ment and should nev­er have hap­pened,” he said. “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.”

In a state­ment issued June 22, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said McChrys­tal made a “sig­nif­i­cant mis­take and exer­cised poor judg­ment in this case.”

“We are fight­ing a war against al-Qai­da and its extrem­ist allies, who direct­ly threat­en the Unit­ed States, Afghanistan, and our friends and allies around the world,” the sec­re­tary 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,” Gates con­tin­ued, “and our sin­gu­lar focus must be on sup­port­ing them and suc­ceed­ing in Afghanistan with­out such dis­trac­tions.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)