Civilian press aide resigns amid flap over McChrystal's 'Rolling Stone' profile

President Obama removes McChrystal as commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on Wednesday after remarks he made in a magazine interview about top administration officials.
By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, June 22, 2010; 9:54 AM

KABUL -- Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's civilian press aide resigned Tuesday over an upcoming magazine story that portrayed the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and some of his aides as derisive toward Obama administration officials.

Duncan Boothby, who has been on McChrystal's staff for roughly a year, was the first casualty of a controversy that prompted White House officials to summon the general to the White House to explain the remarks in the profile that will appear in this week's issue of Rolling Stone.

Boothby was heavily involved in arranging access for journalist Michael Hastings to McChrystal and his staff this year so Hastings could write the profile, titled "The Runaway General."

An official in Kabul confirmed the resignation, speaking on condition of anonymity because it was a personnel issue.

Boothby is not a military officer. He is one of a growing number of civilians hired as press aides for senior military brass as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to generate considerable public interest and controversy.

Military officials say civilians are often better suited to provide constructive criticism and unconventional ideas than military public affairs professionals. In many cases senior generals have reached out to former journalists for an outside set of eyes. Often these civilian aides have a loose portfolio and are brought along in part because they aren't as constrained by the military's chain of command.

McChrystal, who spent much of his military career in the world of special operations, didn't have as much experience dealing with the media as did other top commanders, such as Gen. David H. Petraeus. Boothby's appointment was seen as supplementing the general in an area where he was weak.

For example, Gen. David D. McKiernan, McChrystal's predecessor, hired as his aide Sarah Chayes, a former National Public Radio reporter with extensive experience in southern Afghanistan. Chayes didn't offer media advice but rather helped McKiernan understand the cultural and tribal dynamics of southern Afghanistan. She stayed after McKiernan was replaced by McChrystal but resigned her position this year.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen hired Sally Donnelly, who spent many years working at Time Magazine, as a civilian adviser on media and other issues.

Before becoming a press adviser to McChrystal, Boothby worked for Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, one of the senior U.S. commanders on McChrystal's staff.

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