US Afghan general faces Obama over war criticisms

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The top US commander in Afghanistan was summoned to Washington today after criticising politicians and civilian officials over their attitude to the war.

General Stanley McChrystal, who has apologised for his comments in a magazine interview, has been ordered to attend a regular monthly White House meeting in person tomorrow rather than over a secure video link, to explain himself to President Barack Obama and top Pentagon officials.

The article in Rolling Stone magazine depicts General McChrystal as a lone wolf at odds with many important figures in the Obama administration and unable to persuade even some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the war.

In the interview General McChrystal is described by an aide as "disappointed" in his first Oval Office meeting with Mr Obama. The article says that although General McChrystal voted for Obama, the two failed to connect from the start. Mr Obama reprimanded General McChrystal last autumn for speaking too bluntly about his desire for more troops.

"I found that time painful," General McChrystal said. "I was selling an unsellable position."

Today General McChrystal issued a statement saying: "I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened."

The profile, titled "The Runaway General," emerged from several weeks of interviews and travel with General McChrystal's tight circle of aides this spring.

It includes a list of administration figures said to back him , including Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and puts Vice President Joe Biden at the top of a list of those who do not.

The article claims General McChrystal has seized control of the war "by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House."

Mr Biden initially opposed General McChrystal's proposal for additional forces last year. He favoured a narrower focus on hunting terrorists.

If Mr Eikenberry had the same doubts, General McChrystal said he never expressed them until a leaked internal document threw a wild card into the debate over whether to add more troops last November. In the document, Mr Eikenberry said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was not a reliable partner for the counter-insurgency strategy General McChrystal was ordered to execute.

General McChrystal said he felt "betrayed" and accused the ambassador of giving himself cover.

"Here's one that covers his flank for the history books," General McChrystal told the magazine. "Now, if we fail, they can say: 'I told you so."'

Mr Eikenberry remains in his post in Kabul, and although both men publicly say they are friends, their rift is on full display.

General McChrystal and Mr Eikenberry, a retired Army general, stood as far apart as the speakers' platform would allow during a White House news conference last month.

Mr Obama agreed to dispatch an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan only after months of study that many in the military found frustrating. And the White House's troop commitment was coupled with a pledge to begin bringing them home in July 2011, in what counterinsurgency strategists advising General McChrystal regarded as an arbitrary deadline.

General McChrystal said today: "I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome."