McChrystal apologizes for insulting Obama team

A not-yet-released Rolling Stone magazine profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, quotes him and anonymous aides expressing anger, disrespect and derision at various members of the Obama administration, including Vice President Biden, Amb. Richard Holbrooke and Amb. Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to the country.

The profile itself isn’t out yet. But reporters have gotten its flavor. “Who’s that?” McChrystal is quoted as saying about Biden, who in 2009 didn’t favor McChrystal’s preferred strategy in Afghanistan. Eikenberry, a retired war commander himself, authored cables to Washington questioning whether counterinsurgency can work in the nine-year war and whether President Hamid Karzai is a reliable ally. McChrystal apparently told the magazine, “Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.’”

Last night, McChrystal released a statement to reporters taking responsibility for the profile, while not addressing any specific quotes attributed to him. Here it is in full:

“I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have 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. 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.”

Update: According to the AP, McChrystal is getting summoned to Washington to be called on the carpet. In the White House, many senior officials still have a bad taste in their mouths over McChrystal’s leaked strategy review — McChrystal and his staff did not leak it — which they considered part of a pressure campaign to get Obama to escalate the Afghanistan. Obama did, and McChrystal testified to Congress in December that he fully endorsed and will faithfully execute the administration’s strategy.

It’s perilous for Obama to fire McChrystal now, with only a year remaining before the July 2011 date for beginning to transition to Afghan security responsibilities and consequently beginning troop reductions. But it’s going to be on McChrystal to repair the trust with the White House this profile has clearly damaged. If McChrystal keeps his command, that Rolling Stone reporter got the general’s last big interview.

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Spencer Ackerman

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