American General Under Fire German Defense Minister Says He 'Personally Values' McChrystal
US General Stanley McChrystal, who commands NATO troops in Afghanistan, is to face a dressing down and possible firing by President Barack Obama on Wednesday over disparaging comments he made to Rolling Stone magazine. In Europe, though, Germany's defense minister has spoken positively of the highly decorated military official.
Germany's defense minister has come out in strong defense of beleaguered American General Stanley McChrystal, who has reportedly submitted his resignation following controversial comments he and his advisers made to Rolling Stone magazine that were disparaging of the Obama administration. McChrystal, who is the commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, is expected to meet with the president in Washington on Wednesday.
"I have extraordinary respect for General McChrystal, we work exceedingly well together," German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told public broadcaster ARD on Wednesday, adding that McChrystal is crucial to "the new strategy in Afghanistan." Guttenberg also warned of a "very difficult summer," with a new wave of attacks feared in the run-up to Afghan elections. "That is why it is important that we also have stability within the NATO structures."
But Guttenberg did not comment on the possibility that McChrystal will be forced to step down. "That is an American decision, and as such I don't yet have any information about it," he told the broadcaster. "But I personally value him tremendously."
US President Barack Obama ordered McChrystal to the White House on Wednesday, following the publication of the Rolling Stone article. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president was "angry" about the story and that General McChrystal had made an "enormous mistake." The outcome of the meeting should be clear by Wednesday afternoon in Washington.
"All options are on the table," the spokesman said, when asked whether the highly decorated military officer would be fired. "The magnitude and graveness of the mistake here are profound. Our efforts in Afghanistan are bigger than one person."
McChrystal has already publicly apologized for the article, saying: "It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened."
'Best Commander' So Far
At NATO headquarters in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also expressed his support for McChrystal. "The Rolling Stone article is rather unfortunate, but it is just an article," a NATO statement read. "We are in the middle of a very real conflict, and the secretary-general has full confidence in General McChrystal as the NATO commander, and in his strategy."
In a statement released on Wednesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai described McChrystal as the "best commander" so far. In an hour-long video conference with Obama on Tuesday, Karzai also expressed his support for the general.
"The president believes that we are in a very sensitive juncture in the partnership, in the war on terror and in the process of bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan, and any gap in this process will not be helpful," Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar told reporters in Kabul.
In the Rolling Stone article, the general or those close to him sharply criticized Vice President Joe Biden and Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Kabul. In addition, a close adviser to the general is also quoted as saying that McChrystal thinks very little of Obama's Afghanistan policies.
Most of the highly controversial quotes in the feature are made by unnamed aides to McChystal, who, for example, dismiss Obama's national security adviser, James Jones, as a "clown." They disparagingly refer to Vice President Joe Biden as "Joe Bite Me." The profile also depicts the US special representative to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, in a negative light. "The Boss says he's like a wounded animal," a member of the general's team told the magazine. "Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous."
The president is also characterized as a clueless novice in the feature. For example, an adviser to the general describes McChrystal's first meeting with Obama thusly: "It was a 10-minute photo op. Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his fucking war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."
dsl - with wire reports