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Top U.S. General Ordered To Explain White House Criticism


Army General Stanley McChrystal

Army General Stanley McChrystal

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has been ordered to appear at the White House today to explain his searing criticism of top Obama administration officials.

The comments, by McChrystal and some of his staff members, appear in an article titled "The Runaway General" in the current issue of "Rolling Stone" magazine, which is due to hit newsstands on June 25. The article was posted online on June 22.

Obama has said McChrystal "and his team showed poor judgment," adding, "but I also want to make sure I talk to him directly before I make any final decision."

In the article, titled "The Runaway General," McChrystal makes a sarcastic comment about Vice President Joe Biden, known as a skeptic of McChrystal's strategy for the Afghan conflict.

The piece also contains derisive comments by McChrystal and staff members about the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, and national security adviser James Jones.

He accuses Eikenberry of "cover[ing] his flank for the history books" by criticizing McChrystal's strategy in a classified cable. "Now if we fail," McChrystal is quoted as saying, "they can say, 'I told you so.'"

At one point, McChrystal tells the reporter that at his first meeting with President Barack Obama, the president was unprepared.

McChrystal has apologized and called the article "a mistake reflecting poor judgment" that "should have never happened."

The magazine's executive editor said on June 22 that the general had no objections to the content or his quotes prior to its publication.

Speaking to the MSNBC cable news channel, Eric Bates said McChrystal had "absolutely not" asked to clarify or correct any statements he had made.

A NATO spokesman, James Apparthurai, has described the flap as "unfortunate" but said Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had full confidence in McChrystal.

The White House said on June 22 that McChrystal made an "enormous mistake" in his remarks to the magazine.

"Without a doubt, General McChrystal, as [U.S. Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates has said, has made an enormous mistake, a mistake that he will get a chance to talk about and answer tomorrow both to officials in the Pentagon and to the commander-in-chief," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

A spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai says Kabul believes McChrystal's continued presence is important for the success of the Afghan mission, calling him a "trusted partner."

10 Foreign Troops Killed In Afghanistan

The controversy is just one of several blows in the last two days to the international effort in Afghanistan. Ten foreign troops have been killed, a new report says the U.S. military is indirectly funding the Afghan insurgency through its outsourcing of security on the supply chain, and the British special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan has announced he will take leave over an extended summer break.

Britain's Foreign Office declined to say why Sherard Cowper-Coles is leaving or what is planned upon his return.

But Cowper-Coles has advocated that militant groups in Afghanistan need to be included in discussions about the future direction of the country. The diplomat is reported to have had serious disagreements with senior NATO and U.S. officials over his approach.

News of his departure came as 10 foreign troops were reported killed in a series of militant attacks and a helicopter crash.

Reports said the June 21 deaths, including five U.S. soldiers, three Australians, and one Canadian, take to 65 the number of NATO soldiers reported killed this month in Afghanistan, and to 285 the number killed so far this year.

It was the second time this month that at least 10 service members have been killed in a single day.

British Troop Withdrawal Pledge

Meanwhile, Britain's Ministry of Defense confirmed the 300th British fatality in Afghanistan since operations began in late 2001. The soldier died in a hospital in Britain on June 20 after being injured in a blast in the southern province of Helmand earlier this month.

The news prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to pledge to withdraw troops as soon as Afghanistan can handle its own security.

"We are paying a high price for keeping our country safe, for making our world a safer place and we should keep asking why we're there and how long we must be there," Cameron said.

"And the truth is that we're there because the Afghans are not yet ready to keep their own country safe and to keep terrorists and terrorist training camps out of their country. That's why we have to be there but as soon as they're able to take care and take security for their own country -- that is when we can leave."

In Washington, a minor furor has erupted over a congressional report released late on June 21 that says the U.S. military is indirectly funding the Afghan insurgency through hiring private companies to ensure safe passage of its supply convoys throughout the country.

The document said the military has been giving tens of millions of dollars to Afghan security firms who are channeling the money to warlords, corrupt public officials, and the Taliban.

A U.S. congressional committee is expected to hear evidence on the investigation from officials at the U.S. Department of Defense later on June 22.

These latest developments came ahead of important international talks next month in Kabul, hosted by President Hamid Karzai and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The Taliban has so far rejected a plan drawn up at a Kabul peace meeting earlier this month to offer jobs and money to those who lay down arms.

The U.S. military has warned that casualties are expected to mount as foreign forces build up their campaign to oust militants from the southern province of Kandahar.

compiled from agency reports
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