McChrystal takes blame for staff comments on Obama team

Jan 07 2013, 01:02 IST
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SummarySpeaking out for the first time since he resigned, retired Gen Stanley McChrystal took the blame for a Rolling Stone article and the unflattering comments

Speaking out for the first time since he resigned, retired Gen Stanley McChrystal took the blame for a Rolling Stone article and the unflattering comments attributed to his staff about the Obama administration that ended his Afghanistan command and army career.

“Regardless of how I judged the story for fairness or accuracy, responsibility was mine,’’ McChrystal wrote in his new memoir, in a carefully worded denouncement of the story.

The Rolling Stone article anonymously quoted McChrystal’s aides as criticising Obama’s team, including Vice President Joe Biden. Biden had disagreed with McChrystal’s strategy that called for more troops in Afghanistan. Biden preferred to send a smaller counterterrorism and training force — a policy the White House is now considering as it transitions troops from the Afghan war.

McChrystal added the choice to resign as US commander in Afghanistan was his own.

“I called no one for advice,’’ he wrote in “My Share of the Task,’’ describing his hasty plane ride back to Washington only hours after the article appeared in 2010, to offer his resignation to President Barack Obama. McChrystal was immediately replaced by his then-boss, Gen David Petraeus.

McChrystal devoted a scant page-and-a-half, in the book that comes out Monday, to the incident that ended his 34-year military career and soured trust between the military and media.

The closest McChrystal came to revealing his regret over allowing a reporter weeks of unfettered access with few ground rules comes much earlier in the book. “By nature I tended to trust people and was typically open and transparent. ... But such transparency would go astray when others saw us out of context or when I gave trust to those few who were unworthy of it.’’

In the book McChrystal tried to explain the tensions that helped lead to Obama’s decision to accept his resignation. At the center was the wrangle over McChrystal’s recommendation for 40,000 more US troops in Afghanistan — and conflicting guidance.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates told McChrystal to request the number he thought he needed. White House staff signaled that the newly elected president wanted to keep the levels down.

McChrystal described how he presented his war goal to the White House as “defeat the Taliban’’ and “secure the population,’’ and was advised to lower his sights to “degrade’’ the Taliban.

Obama approved the addition of 30,000 troops, while simultaneously announcing a withdrawal date of 2014. McChrystal did not challenge those decisions, though he said he

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