Gates, Mullen back McChrystal resignation

June 24, 2010 at 2:14 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 24 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama was right to relieve Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his commander's post in Afghanistan, the top two leaders at the Pentagon said Thursday.

McChrystal resigned as the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan after it was reported he and his top aides made flip and derisive remarks about administration officials involved in Afghanistan policy in a Rolling Stone magazine profile scheduled to hit newsstands Friday.

McChrystal's poor judgment "made his continued service in that post ... untenable," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a news conference with Adm. Michael Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.

While he supported McChrystal's nomination last year, Mullen said he "cannot excuse the lack of judgment for Rolling Stone article ... (nor) condone the climate that at best ... is disrespectful of civilian authority."

Military personnel "don't have the right" to speak as McChrystal and his aides did, Mullen said.

The military "must remain a neutral instrument of the state ... accountable to and respectful of civilian leaders."

Mullen, acknowledging he felt somewhat responsible, said he has been working to ensure "there's no question about the neutrality of the military and the apolitical aspect of the military."

Gates said he thought the McChrystal incident was "an anomaly, not a systemic problem."

Since the matter broke Tuesday, Gates said he was working to "minimize the impact of these developments on the war in Afghanistan."

Mullen echoed Gate's sentiments, saying, "There's still a war to be won. We must be focused on succeeding in this mission."

Both said the four-star general with more than 30 years of military service didn't really try to explain why he did what he did.

"He really didn't try to explain it," Gates said. "He just acknowledged he made a terrible decision."

"It really is in the category of someone who knows he made a grave mistake," Mullen said, thumping the table with every word.

"The president held him accountable and we need to move on," Mullen said. "The most important part of this whole issue is the mission."

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