Gen. Stanley McChrystal, under fire for the dismissive, wisecracking remarks he made about Obama administration officials in a magazine article, submitted his resignation Tuesday as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, according to several reports.
Following a cabinet meeting, President Obama said McChrystal had "showed poor judgment'' in his comments about the administration. But Obama said he would make no decisions about the general's future until he has had a chance to talk with him directly on Wednesday.
Earlier Tuesday, McChrystal was recalled to Washington and summoned to the White House meeting, where he is expected to pay a price for a gaffe that the administration characterized as "an enormous mistake."
Joe Klein, a Time magazine correspondent citing an unidentified source, said on CNN that McChrystal had already resigned. The New York Times, relying on Pentagon officials, said he had prepared a letter of resignation -- standard practice for a military officer in such a strained situation with civilian leadership. But the real question remained: Would the White House accept the general's resignation?
A visibly angry White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that "all options are on the table" in discussing McChrystal's future as head of U.S. and NATO forces -- a post that he was given by Obama last year. The magnitude of the general's mistake is "profound," Gibbs said, in reference to a Rolling Stone magazine article in which McChrystal took potshots at Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Envoy Richard Holbrooke, and U.S Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, McChrystal's immediate superior, said the four star general had been recalled to Washington after making a "significant mistake" and using "poor judgment." For McChrystal, the call to a White House meeting with Obama was an ominous sign. "Our combatant commander does not usually participate in these meetings from Washington," Gibbs said, leaving no doubt as to Obama's irritation.
Gates said the general "has apologized to me and is similarly reaching out to others named in this article to apologize to them as well." In a statement reported by the Washington Post, Gates said the "singular focus" must be on supporting the troops in Afghanistan "without distractions."
On Capitol Hill, few rushed to McChrystal's defense. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he "couldn't believe Gen. McChrystal would say that -- he's such a good soldier." Pressed as to whether McChrystal should be fired, Reid said, "That's a decision for the president to make."
A senior media aide to McChrystal is already gone. The Washington Post reported that Duncan Boothby, who had been on McChrystal's staff for about a year, resigned after news broke of the Rolling Stone article. Boothby was heavily involved in coordinating the profile with journalist Michael Hastings, the Post said.
At one point in the story McChrystal appears to mock Biden, who opposed the troop buildup plan championed last year by the general. "Are you asking me about Vice President Biden?" McChrystal says to Hastings. "Who's that?" An unnamed aide chimes, "Biden? . . . Did you say Bite me?"
McChrystal also seems exasperated when told he has an e-mail message from Holbrooke, President Obama's envoy to Afghanistan: "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke. I don't even want to read it." And referring to a leaked cable from U.S. Ambassador Eikenberry regarding the trustworthiness of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, McChrystal is quoted as saying, "Here's one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say. 'I told you so.' "
And, one unnamed aide called National Security Adviser James Jones a "clown" who is "stuck in 1985."
A summary of the magazine article, titled "Runaway General," was reported by the Post, which said it obtained an advance copy from Hastings, a freelancer who has written for the newspaper. Rolling Stone is known for its stories on rock music and pop culture, but it also has a reputation for sharp political commentary and reporting. Rolling Stone later posted the full article on its website.
McChrystal apologized Tuesday in a statement, saying, "It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and it should have never happened. . . . Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said it was appropriate for McChrystal and Obama to meet face to face. "We're all incredibly frustrated [with the pace in Afghanistan], but that doesn't make it OK."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another member of the committee, said, "Let the commander in chief sit down with his general and figure out what's best. For military officers, there's things you do -- and don't do. What the general said was inappropriate."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell failed to offer a full-throated defense of McChrystal's statements when reporters asked him to comment. McConnell did not address the interview and refused to speculate about the president's Wednesday meeting with the general. "The important thing is to get the mission right and to win in Afghanistan," McConnell said.
U.S. troops are scheduled to begin pulling out of the embattled country in July 2011, but the embarrassing McChrystal article comes during one of the deadliest months yet for NATO forces in the nine-year-old conflict. At least 63 have been killed in June, including 10 in a helicopter crash and attacks on Monday.
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