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)