WASHINGTON — A source tells The Associated Press that President Barack Obama has decided to oust Afghanistan commanding Gen. Stanley McChrystal over inflammatory remarks he made about Obama and other high administration officials.
McChrystal had apologized for several disparaging remarks he made in an interview about his civilian superiors.
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THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
WASHINGTON (AP) — His job in grave jeopardy, Afghanistan war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal made his case to President Barack Obama on Wednesday, contrite over his blistering remarks about administration officials.
Obama huddled with his war advisers before telling the nation of the embattled general's fate. He planned a 1:30 p.m. EDT statement in the Rose Garden about the controversy.
With Washington abuzz, there was an almost complete White House lockdown on information about the day's developments and the president's thinking. It wasn't even known where McChrystal went after leaving the West Wing from his nearly half-hour showdown with Obama.
Summoned to Washington to explain himself, McChrystal had arrived from Kabul in the early morning and met first at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. After his next face-to-face, with Obama, the general was not seen returning to the White House for a bigger, hourlong Afghanistan strategy session, as he has been expected.
Before the White House meeting, two military officials said McChrystal went in prepared to submit his resignation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
"I think it's clear that the article in which he and his team appeared ... showed poor judgment," Obama said Tuesday at the close of an unrelated Cabinet meeting. "But I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decisions."
Obama summoned McChrystal to Washington from Afghanistan after learning of scathing, mocking comments from the general and his inner circle about administration officials, including the president. The White House rebuke of McChrystal on Tuesday suggested that it would be hard for him to give an explanation that would be enough to save his job.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his confidence in McChrystal during a video conference Tuesday night with Obama, Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said Wednesday in Kabul. "We hope there is not a change of leadership of the international forces here in Afghanistan," Omar told reporters.
In the article in Rolling Stone magazine, McChrystal didn't criticize Obama himself but called the period last fall when the president was deciding whether to approve more troops "painful" and said Obama appeared ready to hand him an "unsellable" position.
McChrystal also said he was "betrayed" by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner in Afghanistan. He accused Eikenberry of raising doubts about Karzai only to give himself cover in case the U.S. effort failed. "Now, if we fail, they can say 'I told you so,'" McChrystal told the magazine. And he was quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden.
If not insubordination, the remarks — as well as even sharper commentary about Obama and his White House from several in McChrystal's inner circle — were at least an indirect and extraordinary challenge. The capital hasn't seen a similar public contretemps between a president and a top wartime commander since Harry Truman stripped Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his command more than a half-century ago after disagreements over Korean War strategy.
Notably, neither McChrystal nor his team questioned the accuracy of the story or the quotes in it. McChrystal issued an apology.
Military leaders rarely challenge their commanders in chief publicly. When they do, consequences tend to be more severe than a scolding.
Indeed, the presidential spokesman's prepared reaction to the article was remarkably revealing, even for the normally coded language of Washington. Press secretary Robert Gibbs repeatedly declined to say McChrystal's job was safe, and questioned whether McChrystal is "capable and mature enough" to lead the war.
Gates, one of McChrystal's biggest backers, said in a statement that McChrystal had made "a significant mistake."
A senior U.S. military official in Afghanistan told The Associated Press that McChrystal — who had not spoken with Obama on the matter before Wednesday — has been given no indication that he'll be fired but no assurance he won't be. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions between Washington and the general's office in Kabul.
Obama raised the issue of McChrystal's future in a phone call with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday night, Cameron's office said Wednesday without disclosing what was said. Britain has about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, the largest international force after the United States.
McChrystal was viewed as a visionary with the guts and smarts to turn around the beleaguered, 8-year-old Afghanistan war when he was chosen to take over last year.
But despite his military achievements, he has a history of making waves. This is not his first brush with Obama's anger. Last fall, the president scolded McChrystal for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.
Wisconsin Democratic Rep. David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, called for McChrystal to resign. Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was among three prominent Republican senators to criticize the general and say a decision about his future should rest with Obama.
Several names circulated among Pentagon and Capitol Hill aides as potential successors, including Gen. James Mattis, Joint Forces Command chief; Lt. Gen. John Allen, the No. 2 at U.S. Central Command; Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, McChrystal's No. 2 in Afghanistan; Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the Army Training and Doctrine Command; and Adm. James Stavridis, the top NATO commander in Europe.
Military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the White House meeting, said the administration had not reached out to possible successors but might do so Wednesday.
Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Pauline Jelinek, Kimberly Dozier, Laurie Kellman, Matthew Lee and Anne Flaherty in Washington and Deb Riechmann in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.