White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today sharply criticized Gen. Stanley McChrystal for remarks disparaging of the White House and said the Afghanistan war commander will have some serious explaining to do when he meets with Obama at Wednesday.
“The magnitude and the graveness of the mistakes here are profound,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs of the remarks by McChrystal that will appear in a story that will run Friday in Rolling Stone magazine. “I think our efforts in Afghanistan are bigger than one person.
Gibbs suggested that Obama is gravely concerned about anything that distracts from the effort, and then indicated that this is exactly what McChrystal did, adding for good measure that such distractions threaten lives
“Our focus should be on implementing this policy and creating the security and governance environment that allows us to bring out men and women home,” Gibbs said.
“I think anybody that reads that article understands what an enormous mistake this was, given the fact that mothers and fathers all over this country are sending their children to participate in – they need to know that the structure where they’re sending their children to is one that is capable and mature enough in prosecuting” the war.”
These tough statements can be viewed as a setting the table for firing the general. But I doubt it. I don’t think Obama will fire McChrystal. I doubt he has the confidence yet to do it.
And, it would also be too much of a danger to the mission and, frankly, a pain in the ass. The strategy in Afghanistan is McChyrstal’s. Putting someone else in charge would complicate implementation of the strategy and probably force Obama to take a more hands on approach than he has. If the effort fails, Obama will be blamed for getting rid of McChrystal an putting someone else in charge.
Even though Obama already once took McChrystal to the woodshed last fall after the general gave a speech in London deriding Vice President Biden’s soft footprint approach to Afghanistan, I think he’ll just do it again. The spanking will be severe, but McChrystal will be aloud to limp back to Kabul.
Who would he get to replace him anyway, McCrystal Lite?
Nobody here in the White House press room agrees with me though. And Obama will have to calm his vice president, who disagrees sharply with McChrystal, was ridiculed in the article, and surely wants him out.
Gibbs appeared to open the door just a crack to McChrystal staying.
“It is time for everybody to put away their petty disagreements . . . and get to work,” he said.
Weirdly, the status of another member of the team, Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, became suspect during today’s briefing. Eikenberry has clashed with McChrystal and was dissed by the general in the Rolling Stone article.
Asked if the president has confidence in Eikenberry, Gibbs would only say,
“The president has confidence in a team that has agreed to implement a policy that all agreed upon.”