- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 22, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai believes that Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is the “best commander” of the nearly 9-year-old war and hopes that President Obama doesn’t decide to replace him, the Afghan leader’s spokesman said Tuesday.

Gen. McChrystal, who has apologized publicly 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 via a secure videolink, 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 Mr. Obama and top Pentagon officials, the officials said.

Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, Waheed Omar, said the Afghan leader thinks Gen. McChrystal “is a person of great integrity” who has a very good understanding of the Afghan people and the Afghan culture.

“The president believes that Gen. McChrystal is the best commander that NATO and coalition forces have had in Afghanistan over the past nine years,” Mr. Omar said, adding that Gen. McChrystal has worked very closely with Mr. Karzai since the general’s arrival and that “lots of things have improved.”

Asked what would happen if Gen. McChrystal were replaced, Mr. Omar said, “Of course, we hope that that does not happen.”

Mr. Karzai’s half-brother, believed among the most powerful figures in southern Afghanistan, also threw his support behind Gen. McChrystal.

“He is the first good thing to happen to Afghanistan,” Ahmad Wali Karzai told the Associated Press. “He is active. He is honest. He does a good job. A lot of positive things have happened since he has come.”

U.S. officials are seeking the support of Ahmad Wali Karzai and other influential figures for a security operation in Kandahar, the biggest city in the south and a Taliban stronghold. The Kandahar operation is considered crucial to the U.S. strategy to turn back the Taliban.