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Pres. Wants Gen. To explain himself

 

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U. S. commander in Afghanistan h a s b e e n s ummo n e d t o Washington to explain derogatory comments about President Barack Obama and his colleagues, administration officials said today.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who publicly apologized today for using "poor judgment" in an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, has been ordered to attend the monthly White House meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in person Wednesday rather than over a secure video teleconference, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

He'll be expected to explain his comments to Obama and top Pentagon officials, these officials said.

Obama has the authority to fire McChrystal. His predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, was sacked on grounds that the military needed "new thinking and n e w a p p r o a c h e s " i n Afghanistan.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly about the issue, said that McChrystal had talked to "everyone affected by the article." But the official said he did not know if McChrystal had spoken directly with Obama.

A spokesman said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm.

Mike Mullen told McChrystal of his "deep disappointment" over the article.

The article in this week's Ro l l i n g S t o n e d e p i c t s McChrystal as a lone wolf on the outs with many important figures in the Obama administration and unable to persuade even some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the war.

The interview describes McChrystal, 55, as "disappointed" in his first Oval Office meeting with Obama. The article says that although McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start.

Obama appointed McChrystal to lead the Afghan effort in May

2009. Last fall, though, Obama called McChrystal on the carpet for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.

"I found that time painful," McChrystal said in the article, on newsstands Friday. "I was selling an unsellable position."

Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan only after months of study that many in the military found frustrating.

And the White House's troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing them home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.

In Kabul today, McChrystal issued a statement saying: "I have enormous respect and admi rat ion for Pres ident 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.

"I extend my sincerest apology for this profile," the statement said. "It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened."

Mu l l e n t a l k e d w i t h McChrystal about the article Monday night, Capt. John Kirby, Mullen's spokesman said.

In a 10-minute conversation, the chairman "expressed his deep disappointment in the piece and the comments" in it, Kirby said.

The White House said it planned to release a full list of attendees at Wednesday's meeting.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are among those who regularly attend the Situation Room meetings in person, with McChrystal and U.S. Ambas sador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry participating via secure video teleconference.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for all involved to "stay cool and calm" and not the let situation interfere with the mission in Afghanistan.

He said he had "enormous respect" for the general and had spoken to McChrystal on this morning and "emphasized to him that I think, obviously, those are comments that he is going to have to deal with with respect to the commander in chief, the vice president and his national security staff."

The Rolling Stone profile, titled "The Runaway General," emerged from several weeks of interviews and travel with McChrystal's tight circle of aides this spring.

Duncan Boothby, a special assistant to McChrystal, who set up Rolling Stone's interviews with the commander, submitted his resignation today to his superiors in the public affairs office at NATO headquarters in Kabul, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity because it involved a personnel matter.

The of f icial said that Boothby was a civilian who was contracted to work in the public affairs section.

In the interview, McChrystal he said he felt betrayed by Eikenberry, the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner. If Eikenberry had the same doubts, McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counterinsurgency strategy McChrystal was hired to execute.

McChrystal accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

"Here's one that covers his flank for the history books," McChrystal told the magazine.

"Now, if we fail, they can say 'I told you so.'" Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Kabul, said Eikenberry and McChrystal "are fully committed to the president's strategy and to working together as one civilian-military team."

McChrystal has a history of drawing criticism, despite his

 
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