WASHINGTON — Speaking out for the first time since he resigned, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal takes the blame for a Rolling Stone article and the unflattering comments attributed to his staff about the Obama administration that ended his Afghanistan command and army career.
“Regardless of how I judged the story for fairness or accuracy, responsibility was mine,” McChrystal writes in his new memoir, in a carefully worded denouncement of the story.
The Rolling Stone article anonymously quoted McChrystal’s aides as criticizing Obama’s team, including Vice President Joe Biden. Biden had disagreed with McChrystal’s strategy that called for more troops in Afghanistan. Biden preferred to send a smaller counterterrorism and training force — a policy the White House is now considering as it transitions troops from the Afghan war.
McChrystal adds the choice to resign as U.S. commander in Afghanistan was his own.
“I called no one for advice,” he writes in “My Share of the Task,” describing his hasty plane ride back to Washington only hours after the article appeared in 2010, to offer his resignation to President Barack Obama. McChrystal was immediately replaced by his then-boss, Gen. David Petraeus.
McChrystal devotes a scant page-and-a-half to the incident that ended his 34-year military career and soured trust between the military and media. The book, published by Portfolio/Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, comes out Monday.
The closest McChrystal comes to revealing his regret over allowing a reporter weeks of unfettered access with few ground rules comes much earlier in the book. “By nature I tended to trust people and was typically open and transparent. ... But such transparency would go astray when others saw us out of context or when I gave trust to those few who were unworthy of it.”
McChrystal does try to explain the tensions that helped lead to Obama’s decision to accept his resignation. At the center was the wrangle over McChrystal’s recommendation for 40,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan — and conflicting guidance.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates told McChrystal to request the number he thought he needed. White House staff signaled that the newly election president wanted to keep the levels down.
McChrystal describes how he presented his war goal to the White House as “defeat the Taliban” and “secure the population,” and was advised to lower his sights to “degrade” the Taliban.
Obama approved the addition of 30,000 troops, while simultaneously announcing a withdrawal date of 2014. McChrystal did not challenge those decisions, though he said he worried the timetable would embolden the Taliban.