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Obama: McChrystal Departure is ‘Right Thing’ for Afghanistan Mission

June 23, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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The U.S. mission in Afghanistan will be in new hands following the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal over disparaging remarks about the Obama administration. Gwen Ifill recaps the day's developments, including the president's remarks about accepting the resignation.
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GWEN IFILL: Command of the war in Afghanistan will pass into new hands, after U.S. General Stanley McChrystal was abruptly relieved of command.

General McChrystal left the White House this morning before a scheduled strategy meeting on the war in Afghanistan even began. That was the first sign that he wouldn’t have his job by the end of the day. And he didn’t.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, I accepted General Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. I did so with considerable regret, but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military, and for our country.

GWEN IFILL: McChrystal’s dismissal comes after a scathing “Rolling Stone” magazine profile in which the general and several of his aides criticized President Obama and members of his national security team.

BARACK OBAMA: The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general.

It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.

I have just told my national security team that now is the time for all of us to come together. Doing so is not an option but an obligation. I welcome debate among my team, but I won’t tolerate division.

GWEN IFILL: The president nominated General David Petraeus to replace McChrystal. He currently commands U.S. forces across the Middle East, and previously led American troops in Iraq.

Lawmakers from both parties applauded the choice of Petraeus and predicted swift confirmation.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, I-Conn.: If there’s ever been an example of somebody putting national interest ahead of personal interest, it is General David Petraeus’ willingness to accept a command of our forces in Afghanistan.

GWEN IFILL: But some said the McChrystal firing raised questions about overall administration war policy.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: The issue that will be raised in General Petraeus’ confirmation hearings is exactly what is meant by withdrawal in the middle of 2011, whether that is — quote — “etched in stone,” as the president’s spokesperson, Mr. Gibbs, stated, or whether it will be conditions-based. Obviously, we feel very strongly that it needs to be condition-based.

GWEN IFILL: McChrystal, who has been on the job only a year, had been entrusted with crafting a counterinsurgency policy designed to reduce the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan.

But there has been periodic friction. Last fall, the president berated McChrystal for being too blunt in his request for more troops, a period McChrystal told the “Rolling Stone” reporter was painful for him.

The president eventually gave McChrystal the troops he asked for, and, if confirmed by the Senate, Petraeus will now command them, at a critical moment in the eight-year war. The president’s self-imposed deadline to draw down forces is just a year away, and the U.S. and its allies are preparing a major campaign in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province to flush out an entrenched insurgency.

McChrystal had formed a good relationship with one key player, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who said today he respects the U.S. president’s decision.

McChrystal apologized yesterday for using poor judgment and, in a statement today, said he submitted his resignation out of “a desire to see the mission succeed. “The upheaval comes during a month that is now the war’s deadliest. As of today, 76 international troops have died in June, including 46 Americans.