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Transcript of President Obama's Remarks on Gen. Stanley McChrystal

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JUNE 23, 2010

[*] OBAMA: Good afternoon.

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.

I'm also pleased to nominate General David Petraeus to take command in Afghanistan, which will allow us to maintain the momentum and leadership that we need to succeed.

I don't make this decision based on any difference in policy with General McChrystal, as we are in full agreement about our strategy. Nor do I make this decision out of any sense of personal insult. Stan McChrystal has always shown great courtesy and carried out my orders faithfully. I've got great admiration for him and for his long record of service in uniform.

Over the last nine years, with America fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has earned a reputation as one of our nation's finest soldiers. That reputation is founded upon his extraordinary dedication, his deep intelligence and his love of country.

Barack Obama, David PetraeusI've relied on his service, particularly in helping to design and lead our new strategy in Afghanistan.

So all Americans should be grateful for General McChrystal's remarkable career in uniform.

But war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general or a president. And as difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe that it is the right decision for our national security.

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

OBAMA: 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.

My multiple responsibilities as commander-in-chief led me to this decision. First, I have a responsibility to the extraordinary men and women who are fighting this war and to the democratic institutions that I've been elected to lead. I've got no greater honor than serving as commander-in-chief of our men and women in uniform.

More Stanley McChrystal Coverage:

- McChrystal Relieved of Duty; Petraeus to Take Command in Afghanistan
- Walter Shapiro: McChrystal, Afghanistan, and the Era of Foreign Policy Austerity
- David Wood: Washington Weighs Gen. McChrystal Replacement
- David Wood: Combat Troops Rally Behind McChrystal
- David Corn: Will a McChrystal Dismissal Be Bad News for War Critics?

And it is my duty to ensure that no diversion complicates the vital mission that they are carrying out. That includes adherence to a strict code of conduct. The strength and greatness of our military is rooted in the fact that this code applies equally to newly enlisted privates and to the general officer who commands them. That allows us to come together as one. That's part of the reason why America has the finest fighting force in the history of the world.

It is also true that our democracy depends upon institutions that are stronger than individuals. That includes strict adherence to the military chain of command and respect for civilian control over that chain of command. And that's why as commander-in-chief I believe this decision is necessary to hold ourselves accountable to standards that are at the core of our democracy.

Second, I have a responsibility to do whatever is necessary to succeed in Afghanistan and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaida. I believe that this mission demands unity of effort across our alliance and across my national security team. And I don't think that we can sustain that unity of effort and achieve our objectives in Afghanistan without making this change.

OBAMA: That, too, has guided my decision.

I've 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.

All of us have personal interests. All of us have opinions. Our politics often fuels conflict. But we have to renew our sense of common purpose and meet our responsibilities to one another, and to our troops who are in harm's way and to our country.

We need to remember what this is all about. Our nation is at war. We face a very tough fight in Afghanistan. But Americans don't flinch in the face of difficult truths or difficult tasks. We persist and we persevere. We will not tolerate a safe haven for terrorists who want to destroy Afghan society from within and launch attacks against innocent men, women and children in our country and around the world.

So make no mistake, we have a clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban's momentum. We are going to build Afghan capacity. We are going to relentlessly apply pressure on Al Qaida and its leadership, strengthening the ability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to do the same.

That's the strategy that we agreed to last fall. That is the policy that we are carrying out in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In that effort, we are honored to be joined by allies and partners who have stood by us and paid the ultimate price through the loss of their young people at war. They are with us because the interests and values that we share, and because this mission is fundamental to the ability of free people to live in peace and security in the 21st century.

And General Petraeus and I were able to spend some time this morning discussing the way forward. I'm extraordinarily grateful that he has agreed to serve in this new capacity. It should be clear to everybody he does so at great personal sacrifice to himself and to his family. And he is setting an extraordinary example of service and patriotism by assuming this difficult post.

Let me say to the American people, this is a change in personnel, but it is not a change in policy. General Petraeus fully participated in our review last fall. And he both supported and helped design the strategy that we have in place.

In his current post at Central Command, he was worked closely with our forces in Afghanistan; he has worked closely with Congress; he has worked closely with the Afghan and Pakistan governments, and with all our partners in the region.

OBAMA: He has my full confidence. And I am urging the Senate to confirm him for this new assignment as swiftly as possible.

Let me conclude by saying that it was a difficult decision to come to the conclusion that I've made today. Indeed, it saddens me to lose the service of a soldier who I've come to respect and admire.

But the reasons that led me to this decision are the same principles that have supported the strength of our military and our nation since the founding.

So, once again, I thank General McChrystal for his enormous contributions to the security of this nation and to the success of our mission in Afghanistan.

I look forward to working with General Petraeus and my entire national security team to succeed in our mission.

And I reaffirm that America stands as one in our support for the men and women who defend it.

Thank you very much.


Jun 23, 2010 14:05 ET
Source: CQ Transcriptions
© 2010, Congressional Quarterly Inc., All Rights Reserved

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Bob B

As an American and as a US Army (War - Vietnam '70-'71) veteran, and although I did not vote for him, I agree with the decision of President Obama re: Gen McChrystal. The general's reported conduct - and his failure to properly supervise his advisors in the expression of their opinions, demands no less! Civilian control of our military and the necessity for respect of the military for its Commander in Chief and the civilian chain of command, regardless of personal opinions of any of the military personnel involved, is of the utmost importance in our system of governance.

June 28 2010 at 10:00 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Congratulations to a President that has shown great class and grace in a situation that the media is intent on using to further divide this country. As a former Marine, and as a US citizen I feel it is my duty to support every president that holds office, regardless of my pesonal opinion of him. We the people elect who we want to lead us, often during great challenges. This presidency has more than its share of challenges (two wars, economic crisis, failed banks, home foreclosures, high unemployment, and now BP's oil spill). It doesn't matter who got us here. It does matter how we resolve these issues and move forward to be a great country. The presidency is about more than one man. It is about the executive, judicial and legislative branches working together to show leadership and setting a tone for America in the face of crisis. (Remember 9/11)

I pray that our elected officials can erase the party lines while in office long enough to resolve the problems we face today. Sure, respect your party while you are running for office, but after you take office, respect the fact that you now represent ALL Americans and must show the leadership and resolve necessary to solve our country's problems, even if it means it goes against your party's principals.

I wish the General much success in whatever he chooses to do in the future. He obviously has outstanding skills.

June 25 2010 at 8:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If General McChrystal had shown the same thoughtful restraint his commander-in-chief showed with his comments about the general, he would never have found himself in hot water in the first place.

June 23 2010 at 9:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Obama referred to McChrystal as the "commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan". I never heard of the International Security Assistance Force.

June 23 2010 at 5:59 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

OBAMA said "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." This is a true statement in context. When this country goes to war, it should to be to win and the political hacks should provide the necessary support to win the war. The political hacks put up road blocks, restricts our military, denies sufficient troops, funding, and material support and expects us to win. I don't see how political hacks can be so blind to history. Korea, Vietnam, and even WWII are examples of such political gaming and if you read history we lost in Korea and Vietnam and sold out to Russa after WWII. What did the WWII sell out get us - years and years of so called cold war and yet more American lives. Gen Patton was right when he when he warned our political leaders about Russia. McAuthor did the same about China during the Korean war. Did the political hacks listen - no. At least during WWII the military was allowed to hit them where it hurts. Our political hacks are willing to expend military lives and make political hay, yet, have no guts when to comes to expending lives of those who oppose us. Well you can't fight a war that way and win. What fools we are. The rest of the world laughs at us as we distroy ourselves from within. We will loose the Afgan war - yet what ever the outcome the political hacks will try to sell it as a victory.

June 23 2010 at 5:04 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Dan Juraska

Presedenty Obama has handled this situation well. As some of the comments made by General McChristal & his staff were damaging to our continuity of leadership ,he was fortunate not to be placed in a disciplinary situation. Our leadership should be strong & straightforward without side commentary or opposing views.
We support our troops until we are asked to leave and when asked we should do so.

June 23 2010 at 4:42 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

As a 30 year USAF retiree, I think the President made to right decision. We can't have a person, from the lowest enlisted to the top Generals that speak without thinking. The general has had a long and distinguished career. It's a shame this one mistake ended that career, but now he can rest on his achievement. God Speed, General.

June 23 2010 at 4:39 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Gene W Buckley

The resignation of General McCrystal is just the beginning of the expose that will evolve into a failed Obama administration. The General tried to get his message accross via the normal channels, however in desperation, resorted to the media to advise the American how badly the Afgan war is progressing. We wish General Petraus success in his new assignment.

June 23 2010 at 3:09 PM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply

I belive that President Obama has made the only decision he could make when he accepted General McChrystal's resignation. This certainly isn't a time to be divided. I applaud this decision.

June 23 2010 at 3:06 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

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