The president believes that Gen. McChrystal is the best commander that NATO and coalition forces have had in Afghanistan over the past nine years."
That's a nice compliment for McChrystal, but it's also a back-handed slap at Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, who commanded the U.S.-led efforts in Afghanistan for 18 months in 2006 and 2007.
Eikenberry the current U.S. ambassador in Kabul, isn't impressed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and said as much in a leaked memo that made McChrystal furious. In the Rolling Stone article, McChrystal says he felt "betrayed" by the memo, and accuses Eikenberry of "cover[ing] his flank for the history books." Omar's comments probably won't help the two men get along.
You may have heard by now that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, inexplicably gave Rolling Stone unparalleled access to his inner circle, and the magazine dropped a bomb on him today, feeding reporters a story that finds him dissing Ambassador Karl Eikenberry on the record and quotes his aides mocking Vice President Joe Biden, special representative Richard Holbrooke, and National Security Advisor Jim Jones. We also learn that McChrystal was none too impressed when he met President Barack Obama for the first time last year.
As you might imagine, folks in Washington are not pleased. "Within hours after today's Rolling Stone story broke," reports the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, "McChrystal was called by the White House, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They were not happy."
Here's McChrystal's statement:
I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor 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, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome."
Too late? It's hard to imagine how McChrystal survives what is going to be an epic sh*tstorm all week long. And then the article itself goes up Friday.
As James Dobbins noted last fall in a prescient article for FP, the disagreements between McChrystal and Eikenberry have been unusually public, to the long-term detriment of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. But I wonder why Eikenberry was able to stick around so long. After all, he clearly didn't believe in the mission, as his leaked memos made clear. And those memos made it impossible for him to get along with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai -- which is one of the main jobs of an ambassador. How could he possibly be effective?
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
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