US general sorry for govt quotes

2010-06-22 12:22

Washington - The US commander in Afghanistan on Monday apologised over a magazine profile that quotes him denouncing a top diplomat while his aides dismiss President Barack Obama and mock his deputies.

Tensions between General Stanley McChrystal and the White House are on full display in the unflattering article in Rolling Stone, but the general said it was all a mistake.

"I extend my sincerest apology for this profile," McChrystal said in a statement issued hours after the article was released.

"It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never (have) happened."

McChrystal, a former special operations chief, usually speaks cautiously in public and has enjoyed mostly sympathetic US media coverage since he took over the Nato-led force last year. But the article appears to catch him and his staff in unguarded moments.


"Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honour and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard.

"I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team."

In the profile, McChrystal jokes sarcastically about preparing to answer a question referring to Vice-President Joe Biden, known as a sceptic of the commander's war strategy.

"'Are you asking about Vice-President Biden?' McChrystal says with a laugh. 'Who's that?'" the article quotes him as saying.

"Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: ‘Bite Me?’ "

McChrystal tells the magazine that he felt "betrayed" by the US ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, in a White House debate over war strategy last year.

Referring to a leaked internal memo from Eikenberry that questioned McChrystal's request for more troops, the commander suggested the ambassador had tried to protect himself for history's sake.

"I like Karl, I've known him for years, but they'd never said anything like that to us before," McChrystal tells the magazine.

"Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, 'I told you so'."

Opens old wounds

Eikenberry, himself a former commander in Afghanistan, had written to the White House saying Afghan President Hamid Karzai was an unreliable partner and that a surge of troops could draw the US into an open-ended quagmire.

The article revisits the friction between the White House and the military last year as Obama debated whether to grant McChrystal's request for tens of thousands of reinforcements.

Although Obama in the end granted most of what McChrystal asked for, the strategy review was a difficult time, the general tells the magazine.

"I found that time painful," McChrystal says. "I was selling an unsellable position."

An unnamed adviser to McChrystal alleges the general came away unimpressed after a meeting with Obama in the Oval Office a year ago.

"It was a 10-minute photo op," the general's adviser says.

"Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was... he didn't seem very engaged.

"The boss was pretty disappointed," says the adviser.

Aides intensely loyal to McChrystal

The profile, titled "The Runaway General", argues that McChrystal has pushed through his vision of how to fight the war, sidelining White House and state department heavyweights along the way.

His aides are portrayed as intensely loyal to McChrystal while dismissive of the White House and those who question their commander's approach.

One aide calls the national security adviser, Jim Jones, a retired general, a "clown" who is "stuck in 1985".

One unnamed senior military official speculates that yet another surge of US forces could be requested "if we see success here".


But his own troops voice doubts about the war and new rules limiting the use of force at a meeting with McChrystal at a combat outpost near Kandahar city, according to the magazine.

One sergeant tells him: "Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we're losing, sir."

McChrystal complains about a dinner with an unnamed French minister during a visit to France in April.

In a hotel room in Paris getting ready for a dinner with the French official, McChrystal says: "How'd I get screwed into going to this dinner?"

He also derides the hard-charging top US envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke.

"Oh, not another email from Holbrooke," McChrystal says, looking at his messages on a cellphone. "I don't even want to open it."