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The chief concern among McChrystal supporters before the dismisal was that changing commanders in Afghanistan now would upset the tight deadline set by the White House and Pentagon for completing the 30,000-troop surge, which is set to end in July 2011.

The president’s advisers, however, wanted a show of presidential force and won out when he accepted Gen. McChrystal’s resignation. They are said to include Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who took the biggest hit in the magazine article when his name was jokingly referred to as “bite me.”

These advisers argued that ousting Gen. McChrystal was needed as part of recent efforts to make the president look tougher, as when he mentioned recently that he was looking for someone’s rear end to kick over the mishandling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Missile deal update

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will discuss plans for a joint missile defense agreement when they meet Thursday. The agreement has been the focus of talks over the past several months between Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov.

“We expect the presidents to talk about this … and it will be reflected in whatever public statements are released,” said a State Deparment official familiar with the agenda.

U.S. officials close to the talks said the State Department recently presented the Russians with a secret draft agreement on missile defense cooperation that pro-missile defense officials fear will lead to restrictions on U.S. missile defenses.

The deal was first disclosed in this column last week and prompted a harsh reaction from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who denied during a Senate hearing that there is anything secret about the missile defense talks, despite the fact that all documents, discussions and drafts shared by Mrs. Tauscher and Mr. Rybakov remain stamped “secret” or “top secret.”

Addressing the Inside the Ring report, Mrs. Clinton said, “I want to be as clear as I possibly can.

“No. 1, there is no secret deal,” she said. “No. 2, there is no plan to limit U.S. missile defenses, either in this treaty or in any other way. And No. 3, on that score, the story is dead wrong, and I want to be very clear about that because I don’t want anyone using what is yet again another inaccurate story to argue against this treaty.”

However, Mrs. Clinton went on to say that “we will continue to explore missile defense cooperation with Russia, but the talks are not secret and there is nothing on the table or even in the wildest contemplation that would involve any limits on our missile defense.”

“Instead, we’re seeking to see whether they can be expanded with additional capabilities for our system,” she said.

At the same hearing, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the Russians “hate” missile defenses, prompting missile defense officials to question whether Russian cooperation with the United States can produce anything but restrictions on U.S. defenses.

The Foreign Policy magazine blog “The Cable” reported June 17 that the U.S. and Russia are working on a framework or draft agreement on missile defense cooperation that includes data sharing, joint radar systems and similar efforts covering future cooperation.

SM-3 upgrade

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