President Obama today said he was with “considerable regret” relieving Gen. Stanly McChrystal of his command of the Afghan war, but he said the policy will stay on track with his selection of Centcom Commander Gen. David Petraeus to replace him.
Obama, who spoke early this afternoon in the Rose Garden, said it was not policy differences or a feeling of personal insult, but a concern with the sanctity of the chain of command that led him to remove McChrystal.
“I did so with considerable regret, but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military, and for our country.” Obama said. “War is bigger that any one man or woman. . . . the conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general.”
Obama added, “I welcome debate among my team, but I won’t tolerate division.”
While he’s certainly saluted and signed off on it, Petraeus is clearly uncomfortable with Obama’s policy of beginning a departure from Afghanistan in July 2011.
And Obama made clear today that the U.S. objective in Afghanistan is not victory, but instead just trying to create conditions for Afghans to win it themselves.
So make no mistake, we have a clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban’s momentum. We are going to build Afghan capacity. We are going to relentlessly apply pressure on Al Qaida and its leadership, strengthening the ability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to do the same.
That’s the strategy that we agreed to last fall. That is the policy that we are carrying out in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It’s not a policy for victory, and it’s not being conducted with the overwhelming force that the military sought. We’ll see how easily Petraeus stays on board.
That said, Obama probably did advance himself as a war leader with today’s announcement. He showed the maturity some think he lacks in his approach to conducting the war, replacing someone who had showed either immaturity or lack of judgment or both.
But the move fails to erase a significant problem bedeviling the president: a perception in the military that he is inattentive to the war and possibly incompetent to lead it – a view the led inevitably to the type of derision expressed by McChrystal and his staff.