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Gen. McChrystal To Answer For 'Rolling Stone' Story

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The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has been summoned to Washington, D.C., to explain his controversial comments about colleagues in a recent interview to Rolling Stone magazine.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

The American commander in Afghanistan says he's sorry. General Stanley McChrystal apologized this morning for dismissive comments made about a wide number of people in the Obama administration, comments made in a new article in Rolling Stone magazine. This article has caused enough of a stir that McChrystal has been summoned back to Washington tomorrow to explain himself at the White House.

NPR's national security correspondent Rachel Martin is covering this story. She's in a our studios. Rachel, good morning.

RACHEL MARTIN: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What did he say?

MARTIN: Well, this article points to several different criticisms that General McChrystal apparently made about top members of the administration, all the way up to the vice president, even the president of the United States. It describes the general's first Oval Office meeting with President Obama. And after that meeting, aides say to Rolling Stone that their boss was, quote, "disappointed."

INSKEEP: McChrystal was disappointed in the president.

MARTIN: That's how they have characterized this meeting. And, you know, the two men - it's important to point out - they had disagreed about what strategy to take in Afghanistan. And the president, at the time, was hesitant to put in more troops. He was advocating for a lower, a smaller footprint in Afghanistan. General McChrystal, on the other hand, was arguing for the top end of the scale. He wanted more troops on the ground. And the president ultimately called McChrystal on the carpet last fall for being so public about his preference on this strategy. And as we all remember, this was a very sensitive time. The president was deliberating for months and months about what to do. And so to have the general speaking so publicly expressing his dismay and his preference for more troops caused a little tension.

INSKEEP: Now, we have comments about so many people in the administration attributed to McChrystal or people on his staff that it would be hard to go through the whole list, here. But let's mention that Vice President Biden is spoken of in a somewhat disparaging way. Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, is specifically accused of being deceptive.

MARTIN: Yes. This is striking, because the partnership between General McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry, it had been hoped that that would be an instrumental tool in turning around Afghanistan, just as the relationship between General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker in Iraq had illustrated itself to be so crucial in turning around Iraq. People hoped that something similar might transpire in Afghanistan.

Aides talking privately to me from both the Department of Defense and the State Department reveal that there is no love lost between these two men.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: It has proven to be a tense relationship at best, and that stems largely from a memo that was leaked by Eikenberry last fall.

INSKEEP: Which criticized the policy that they were about to embark on, and McChrystal now just says he was covering his backside for history. So, how much trouble is McChrystal really in, now?

MARTIN: Well, being summoned to the White House is no small deal. He was supposed to be attending a regularly scheduled meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now he's been asked to show up in person, in particularly, to defend his comments that he has made in this Rolling Stone article. We know that McChrystal's - one of his top aides has already been fired as a result of this piece. We don't know specifically what the repercussions are going to be for General McChrystal, but we know that this comes at an incredibly sensitive time. Generals on the ground have articulated the next 12 months as being critical in the war.

INSKEEP: Well, now, Rachel Martin, what do these comments say about the broader war effort and whether or not everybody in the administration and the military agrees on the strategy that they're now pursuing in Afghanistan?

MARTIN: Well, I think that's the big question. I mean, to date, General McChrystal has been named as the man to handle Afghanistan. He has had the support from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The president has said time and time again that Stan McChrystal is the man to wage this war. And it is a particularly unique kind of war, counterinsurgency, that he was quite well-suited for and is well-suited for, many would say.

So if there is any significant fallout, if the president decides that he needs to replace General McChrystal, that will be a very difficult choice to make in a very tenuous and difficult time in the war.

INSKEEP: And I suppose we should remind: The president is the commander-in-chief, and so any slight infraction can be called insubordination if you want to see it that way.

MARTIN: Correct. And we don't know, at this point, what the repercussions for the general will be. But again, being summoned to the White House is a big deal.

INSKEEP: Rachel, thanks very much.

MARTIN: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Rachel Martin, bringing us up to date on an apology by General Stanley McChrystal for some remarks in Rolling Stone magazine about members of the Obama administration.

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