WASHINGTON -- President Obama has accepted the resignation of his Afghanistan war commander for making disparaging comments about top political leaders, replacing him with the highly respected officer who oversaw the successful surge strategy in Iraq in 2007.
Speaking at the White House, Obama said he is replacing Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal with Gen. David H. Petraeus, who will leave his post as the commander of all US forces in the Middle East to take over the nine-year-old conflict.
"It is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military, for our country," Obama said, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and Petraeus. "War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general or a president."
He said the derogatory comments that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine threatened civilian control of the military, "does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general" and "erodes the trust that is necessary for our team to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan."
McChrystal, who took command a year ago, had several public flaps with the White House. But comments he and his staff made in were considered a rupture in the nearly sacrosanct balance of civilian control of the military.
McChrystal, who was recalled from Kabul for a face-to-face with the president, left the White House abrupt this morning after his 20-minute meeting with the commander-in-chief -- and before the president's entire war cabinet was set to meet.
The episode is considered one of the more pronounced public confrontations between a president and commander in wartime, sparking analogies to the firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur by President Harry Truman at the height of the Korean War in 1951 for insubordination.
Petraeus, 57, who technically takes a demotion as the the officer in charge of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, takes over the reins of the war at a crucial juncture with a major offensive planned against the Taliban stronghold of Khandahar.
Obama said Petraeus, whose counterinsurgency strategy helped improve security in Iraq, has "the leadership we need to succeed."
He also stressed that the removal of McChrystal was not a sign that there is a difference of opinion between the White House and the Pentagon over the approach to the war.
"We are in full agreement about our strategy," he said. "This is a change in personnel, not a change in policy."
Sen. John F. Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, lauded Obama's choice of Petraeus.
The Massachusetts Democrat, who has played an influential role in war policy, said in a statement that the "decision to return General Petraeus to the battlefield provides not just continuity in philosophy, but tested diplomatic skill" needed to ensure military gains are sustained.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.