Obama Summons McChrystal to White House to Explain Comments

Posted June 22, 2010 at 9:40am

Updated: 11:57 a.m.

Somebody owes President Barack Obama an explanation — and he wants it in person.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has been summoned to the White House for a Wednesday meeting to explain his criticisms of the administration and his diplomatic partner, Afghanistan Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, in a Rolling Stone magazine profile due out on Friday.

Most of the damaging comments in the article come from McChrystal’s staff, who say McChrystal was “pretty disappointed” in Obama for being unprepared to discuss the war and describe the president as “uncomfortable and intimidated” in meetings. One staffer calls National Security Adviser Jim Jones a “clown”; another refers to Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke as “a wounded animal.”

And McChrystal himself says of Eikenberry: “Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.'”

The top U.S. commander has already issued an apology, citing poor judgment and describing his “enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team.” But an administration official confirmed that the president is demanding an in-person conversation about the dust-up.

McChrystal “has been directed to attend tomorrow’s monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan in person, rather than via secure video teleconference, to explain to the Pentagon and the commander in chief his quotes about his colleagues in the Rolling Stone piece,” said the official.

One person McChrystal called Tuesday morning was Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), who described the Rolling Stone controversy as “chatter” and warned against letting the flap be a distraction from being successful in Afghanistan.

“Everyone needs to take a deep breath and give the president and his national security team the space to decide what is in the best interest of our mission, and to have their face-to-face discussion tomorrow without a premature Washington feeding frenzy,” Kerry said.