US & Canada

Key players in Gen Stanley McChrystal meeting

The top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal, has been dismissed by President Barack Obama following a controversial interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

He was summoned to Washington to explain the extraordinary complaints he made in the article about administrative officials, including Mr Obama.

Gen Stanley McChrystal has apologised to many of those he mentioned in the article, and faced them in a meeting on Wednesday.

Here are brief profiles of those involved.

Gen Stanley McChrystal

Gen Stanley McChrystal was the top US military commander in Afghanistan, in charge of both Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and the 150,000 US forces based there.

He took over in June after his predecessor, Gen David McKiernan, was sacked by the president and Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

Shortly after taking up his post, he called for a new counterinsurgency strategy - which focuses on seizing the military initiative from the Taliban and winning over the local civilian population by providing protection and good government - and warned of "mission failure" unless an additional 40,000 troops were deployed.

Mr Obama subsequently approved the sending of 30,000 reinforcements, a "surge" which Gen McChrystal used to launch assaults on assaults on Taliban-controlled territory in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. However, success has not come as quickly as hoped and casualties continue to rise.

There was also increasing disquiet among US troops over the general's decision to restrict the use of air strikes and artillery to try to reduce civilian casualties.

Gen McChrystal has been at odds with Mr Obama and other members of his administration. During the autumn, the president took him to task for a leaked memo detailing the need for more troops and for criticising Vice-President Joe Biden's strategy for Afghanistan in public.

After the publication of his comments in the Rolling Stone article, the general issued a statement saying: "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.

"I extend my sincerest apology for this profile," he added. "It was a mistake reflecting poor judgement and should never have happened."

Barack Obama

According to the article, Gen McChrystal thought President Barack Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" during his first meeting with top commanders at the Pentagon.

At a private meeting four months later, after he was asked to head the force in Afghanistan, the general was said to have been "disappointed".

"It was a 10-minute photo op," said an adviser to Gen McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was... he didn't seem very engaged."

Responding to the comments on Tuesday, the president told reporters: "I think it's clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed poor judgement. But I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decision.

"Whatever decision that I make with respect to General McChrystal or any other aspect of Afghan policy is determined entirely on how I can make sure that we have a strategy that justifies the enormous courage and sacrifice that those men and women are making over there and that ultimately makes this country safer."

Adm Mike Mullen

As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen is the top military officer in the United States.

In 2008, Gen McChrystal became director of the Joint Staff and worked for Adm Mullen. He subsequently recommended him to Mr Gates as a replacement for Gen McKiernan as US commander in Afghanistan.

Adm Mullen is a firm proponent of the counterinsurgency doctrine being practised by Gen McChrystal in Afghanistan and backed the call for a troop surge.

He was not criticised by the general or his aides in the article, but expressed his "deep disappointment in the piece and the comments".

Gen David Petraeus

Gen David Petraeus, who as head of US Central Command is in overall charge of US forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, has firmly endorsed Gen McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

Gen Petraeus is widely credited with employing similar tactics to reduce the sectarian violence that has plagued Iraq when he became the US military commander in the country in 2007 and presided over the troop "surge".

He was not criticised in the Rolling Stone article and has not yet commented.

Robert Gates

Defence Secretary Robert Gates hand-picked Gen McChrystal last year to turn around the war in Afghanistan.

He firmly believed the former special forces commander was the best person to apply the counterinsurgency doctrine he wanted to use, calling him a driven visionary with the fortitude and intelligence to succeed.

With increasing frustration at the slow progress and rising losses in Afghanistan, Mr Gates has argued that the general be given time to show that the counterinsurgency strategy can succeed.

He was not criticised by the general or his aides in the article, but issued a stern rebuke saying he had "made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgement".

"Gen McChrystal has apologised to me and is similarly reaching out to others named in this article to apologise to them as well," he said in a statement that contained no endorsement for the commander.

Hillary Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took part in all of the eight meetings President Obama held on Afghanistan and Pakistan, either in person or over the phone, and regularly attends Situation Room meetings in person.

Like Adm Mullen and Robert Gates, she firmly backed the proposal to send around 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and the counterinsurgency strategy. The stance contradicted the advice of her ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, who had raised pointed objections.

Mrs Clinton is the only member of the Obama administration to be praised by Gen McChrystal's aides in the article.

"Hillary had Stan's back during the strategic review," said one adviser. "She said: 'If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.'"

She has not yet commented on the comments about her colleagues.

Rahm Emanuel

Before President Obama decided to send additional troops to Afghanistan, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel openly expressed doubts about a surge, as well as concern about what the US could achieve while co-operating with Afghan President Hamid Karzai - a policy advocated by Gen McChrystal.

Joe Biden

Vice-President Joe Biden's stance on Afghanistan had already been openly criticised by Gen McChrystal before the article was published.

At a conference in London last autumn, the general dismissed his belief that a troop surge and prolonged counterinsurgency campaign would leave the US in a military quagmire without weakening international militant networks as "short-sighted", saying it would lead to a state of "Chaos-istan".

Mr Biden has also repeatedly expressed doubts about Afghan President Hamid Karzai's legitimacy and his willingness to fight corruption.

The article depicts Gen McChrystal's staff discussing the prospect of being questioned by Vice-President Joe Biden, and the general laughing as he says: "Are you asking about Vice-President Biden? Who's that?"

One of the general's aides is then quoted making a joke about the vice-president.

"Biden?" he asks. "Did you say: Bite Me?"

Mr Biden has yet to comment on the article.

James L Jones

White House National Security Advisor James L Jones, a retired four-star general and former Nato Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), expressed scepticism about the wisdom of sending additional troops to Afghanistan and publicly chided Afghan President Hamid Karzai while visiting Kabul in May.

In the Rolling Stone article, he is described by one of Gen McChrystal's aides as a "clown" who is "stuck in 1985".

Mr Jones has not yet commented on the article.

Karl Eikenberry

Karl Eikenberry is the US ambassador to Afghanistan. He is a retired lieutenant general, who was himself a former US military commander in the country.

He became - thanks to the leaking of a telegram he sent to the White House expressing his concern about a troop increase - the most visible and vocal opponent of sending additional US troops to Afghanistan.

The ambassador was quoted as saying that sending substantially more soldiers was "not a good idea" at present because of ongoing concerns over alleged corruption in the Afghan government.

The Rolling Stone article quotes Gen McChrystal saying he felt "betrayed".

"I like Karl, I've known him for years, but they'd never said anything like that to us before. Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say 'I told you so'."

Mr Eikenberry has not yet commented on the article.

Richard Holbrooke

US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke is a veteran diplomat with whom the general would be expected to work closely.

But the Rolling Stone article suggests that Gen McChrystal was dismissive when he received a message from Mr Holbrooke on his Blackberry.

"Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke. I don't even want to open it."

Gen McChrystal had a "special scepticism" for Mr Holbrooke, the article suggested.

"The Boss says he's like a wounded animal," said one member of the general's team. "Holbrooke keeps hearing rumours that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous."

Mr Holbrooke has not yet commented on the article.

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