- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2010

McChrystal’s ouster

The firing of ArmyGen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, was preceded by a short political death watch among senior military brass.

President Obama accepted his resignation Wednesday after Gen. McChrystal and his aides were quoted in a magazine article criticizing perceived weakness and indecision by top administration officials regarding the war in Afghanistan.

His replacement is current U.S. Central Command commander and Gen. McChrystal’s boss, ArmyGen. David H. Petraeus, who will be heading to Afghanistan.

Gen. Petraeus is the main proponent of the Army’s counterinsurgency strategy that is being adapted from Iraq to Afghanistan with limited results so far. He also has the backing of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and his selection is expected to patch over the political battles between Gen. McChrystal and the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, retired Army Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, Mrs. Clinton’s point man in Kabul.

The appointment prompted one national security wag to say: “This is an internal war in the Clinton-Obama sphere.”

Before Gen. Petraeus was chosen Tuesday evening, the short list of replacements included Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, current commander of U.S. forces in Iraq; and Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, current director of the Joint Staff and a former commander in Iraq.

Others in the mix were Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, current commander of the Joint Forces Command in southern Virginia and former Iraq commander; and Army Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, current commander of International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Afghanistan and the general in charge of day-to-day military operations.

Gen. Mattis is said to be a candidate to replace Gen. Petraeus at Central Command, currently the military’s most important war-fighting command.

Gen. McChrystal had one thing going for him that apparently was not enough to salvage his career: He had voted for Mr. Obama for president, making him part of a minority of military leaders who do not lean conservative or, at least, Republican.

The points against him were many. They included his comment to a television interviewer in September that he had had only one meeting with the president, making it appear that Mr. Obama was not interested in the Afghanistan war or had handed it off to subordinates. He also clashed with Mr. Eikenberry.

Gen. McChrystal also had powerful allies among the Washington inner circle until the Rolling Stone magazine article, chief among them being Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Mr. Gates had been a big supporter of Gen. McChrystal because of his special operations background and successes in killing and capturing terrorists in Iraq.

But Mr. Gates ended up having an influential role in providing advice to the president on his decision to let Gen. McChrystal resign. Mr. Gates’ statement Tuesday night signaled that he no longer supported the general, noting that the general was guilty of “a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case.”

Gen. Petraeus‘ willingness to take the Afghanistan commander’s mission was said to be a key factor in Mr. Obama’s advisers supporting the decision to replace Gen. McChrystal.

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