1800 GMT: Two thoughts. 1) From the frying pan to the fire: David Petraeus is just as hostile as Stanley McChrystal to Obama's declared intention to withdraw troops by July 2011. 2) Who takes over Central Command and become Petraeus' military boss?
1751 GMT: Obama says, "It was a difficult decision I made today. Indeed it saddens me to lose the service of a soldier whom I have come to respect and admire." But this decision was necessary "for the strength of our military and our nation".
And with that Obama exits, taking no questions.
NEW Afghanistan/McChrystal Analysis: Hyperventilating Over the Tip, Missing the (Petraeus) Iceberg
NEW Afghanistan Revealed: US Hands Over Millions of $$…To “Warlords” (DeYoung)
Afghanistan Special: McChrystal and the Trashing of the President (US Military v. Obama, Chapter 472)
Afghanistan Document: The McChrystal Profile (Hastings — Rolling Stone)
1750 GMT: Obama is flanked during the statement by Vice President Biden --- one of the targets of the McChrystal teams in the Rolling Stone interview ("Vice President Bite Me") --- and General Petraeus.
Obama is now on the section of the statement on how super-fantastic Petraeus is.
1749 GMT: Obama now reinforcing his play for support by stressing decision was necessary because of responsibility to troops and demand to defeat Al Qa'eda: "Our nation is at war. We face a very tough fight in Afghanistan....We are going to break the Taliban's momentum. We are going to rebuild Afghanistan."
1743 GMT: Obama begins his statement. Have accepted McChrystal resignation with "regret" but "with certainty" that is right thing to do for US troops and war effort.
Obama stresses that decision not because of any difference on policy with McChrystal or "any sense of personal insult". He expresses "great admiration" for McChrystal and his service in Iraq and Afghanistan as "one of America's finest soldiers".
But "war is bigger than one man or woman", and "this is right decision to make". McChrystal's conduct in Rolling Stone interview "did not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military, the core of our democratic system, and it erodes the trust that is necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan."
1725 GMT: CNN and Associated Press are reporting from sources that General David Petraeus, currently the head of Central Command, will take over the Afghanistan command from General McChrystal. This follows earlier leaks to CNN and NBC that Obama would "fire" McChrystal, who met the President for 30 minutes this morning but left the White House and did not attend a strategy meeting on Afghanistan.
That is pretty stunning, not because McChrystal is out but because Petraeus is effectively demoting himself from moving from Central Command --- where he is currently McChrystal's boss --- to the Afghanistan role.
Obama is making a statement within the next few minutes.
1430 GMT: The meeting between President Obama and General McChrystal, which lasted about 30 minutes, has concluded. The Afghanistan strategy meeting at the White House is at 1535 GMT --- will the general return for the discussion?
1325 GMT: Getting to the Important Point. A prominent activist ponders, "If McChrystal f**** up public outreach to Americans this often, how is he going to win hearts and minds of Afghans?"
1320 GMT: The Hot Tip? A "senior a
dministration official" has told CNN that the White House has asked the Pentagon to make a list of possible replacements for McChrystal.
1305 GMT: Beyond the Drama. A couple of commentaries to note, alongside our analysis this morning, that usefully note the policy issues beyond the McChrystal "crisis". Matthew Yglesias, drawing from his colleague Max Bergmann, writes:
The military can easily continue to pursue a McChrystal-style strategy on both the Afghan and US media fronts under different leadership. The more important question facing the White House is how they feel about that. A determined president will always prevail over the opinions of generals, but the political costs of attempting to do so can be quite high since military officials have a lot of prestige in American society.
(My caveat is the question as to whether Obama has ever --- when the crunch came --- been "determined [enough to]...prevail over the opinions of generals.")
And Juan Cole puts the challenge --- that will remain long after the Rolling Stone gathers moss --- to the President:
Obama needs to define an attainable goal in Afghanistan and then execute it swiftly. As it is, when he is pressed about what in the world we are doing there, he retreats into Bushisms: “So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That’s the goal that must be achieved.”
Well that isn’t a good enough reason to be in Afghanistan. There is no al-Qaeda to speak of in Afghanistan. And although insurgents and Taliban probably control about 20 percent of the country, they have not let al-Qaeda set up shop in their territory.
1255 GMT: On Day 2 of the Great McChrystal Balls-Up (with the reminder that we've posted the important story --- the US military v. Obama --- beyond the media noise), here's the latest....
General Stanley McChrystal, after his recall to Washington over his profile in Rolling Stone magazine, is now in the Pentagon for discussions before his meeting at the White House with President Obama. On the way into the building, he denied rumours --- spread by Joe Klein of Time magazine and picked up by other outlets from CBS News to Britain's Daily Telegraph --- that he had offered his resignation.
McChrystal told reporters, ""Come on, you know better than that. No!"