MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has been summoned to Washington. General Stanley McChrystal will have to explain himself to the White House after making harshly negative comments about top officials in the Obama administration, including the president and the vice president. The comments by McChrystal and members of his staff were part of a profile of the general in the latest Rolling Stone magazine.
In a moment, we'll hear from the author of that article. But first, NPR's national security correspondent Rachel Martin reports on what the controversy means both for General McChrystal and for the broader war effort in Afghanistan.
RACHEL MARTIN: General Stanley McChrystal was the man who was supposed to save the war effort in Afghanistan. Now, he may be fighting to save his own job. In a statement released today, McChrystal apologized for what he called a mistake reflecting poor judgment.
Today, at the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs wouldn't guarantee that McChrystal's job is safe.
Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Press Secretary): Let's be clear. General McChrystal is a - has fought bravely on behalf of this country for a long time. Nobody could or should take that away from him and nobody will. But there has clearly been an enormous mistake in judgment to which he's going to have to answer to.
MARTIN: McChrystal is in trouble because of statements he and his aides made to a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, poking fun at Vice President Joe Biden and deriding the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan as someone who, quote, "covers his flank for the history books."
The statements reflected tension between the military and the administration that came to a head last fall during a long debate over what strategy to take in Afghanistan. Vice President Biden was pushing for fewer troops, McChrystal wanted more. Here he is in a speech last October in London.
(Soundbite of archived news)
General STANLEY McCHRYSTAL (Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan): I discount immediately anyone who simplifies the problem or offers a solution or says - they raise one finger and then say, this is what you got to do, because they absolutely have no clue of the complexity of what we're dealing with.
MARTIN: That speech was seen as a dig at the vice president and triggered a personal reprimand from President Obama. Now, it's happening again. Secretary of Defense Robert Gate said today that General McChrystal has made a, quote, "significant mistake and exercise poor judgment."
Dr. MICHAEL O'HANLON (Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution): I frankly think that Secretary Gates has fired people for offenses that are no greater than this.
MARTIN: That's Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.
Mr. O'HANLON: I also think he has never needed someone as much as he needs McChrystal for a war that is crucial, and that certainly has not yet turned the corner.
MARTIN: McChrystal himself has admitted that a key military operation underway in Kandahar is going to take longer than expected, and U.S. Forces are still weighed down in Marja where U.S. commanders say they've made mistakes. Still, up until now, the administration has publicly supported McChrystal and his counterinsurgency strategy.
Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says the McChrystal comments present a dilemma.
Mr. ANTHONY CORDESMAN (Center for Strategic and International Studies): If you are going to ask General McChrystal to resign, and if allied forces or countries or people at a political level react too much, the president will have little choice. But if he has that discretion, who would do as well or better?
MARTIN: It's a question no one in the administration expected to have to ask, especially now as U.S. forces face what could be the most crucial 12 months in the war to date.
Rachel Martin, NPR News, Washington.