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Obama, McChrystal meet at White House following belittling critique

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.

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"Biden?" chimes in an aide who is seated nearby, and who is not named in the article. "Did you say: Bite Me?"

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"I say this as someone who admires and respects Stan McChrystal enormously. The country doesn't know how much good he's done. But this is a firing offense," said Eliot A. Cohen, who served as a counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the latter days of the George W. Bush administration.

Much of McChrystal's career has been spent in the military's secretive Special Operations community, which rarely deals with the media and often views outsiders, even those within the military, with suspicion. Some of the most damaging statements in the Rolling Stone article were from his staff officers, who are also drawn heavily from the Special Operations community.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, spent a major part of his career in Washington and is far more practiced in dealing with reporters and the political leadership.

An administration official, discussing internal White House deliberations on the condition of anonymity, said McChrystal and his senior advisers are part of a unit "that is typically focused on intensive, sensitive, kinetic action."

But McChrystal's current post requires handling international diplomacy, military strategy and Washington politics. The official said that "it reaches beyond an insular fraternity of brothers."

"This wouldn't have happened in a thousand years with Dave Petraeus," the official added.

A U.S. military official said that the author of the Rolling Stone article, Michael Hastings, a freelance journalist who has also written for The Washington Post, was supposed to have had limited to access to McChrystal while he was in Europe. But after the eruption of a volcano in Iceland shut down air travel across Europe, stranding the general, Hastings had access to him for much longer.

The U.S. military official also said Duncan Boothby, McChrystal's civilian press aide, allowed Hastings to chat with staff members without establishing clear ground rules. Boothby resigned Tuesday.

White House officials said Obama was alerted to the article Monday when Biden called him around 8 p.m. Biden told Obama that McChrystal called him while he was traveling back from Illinois aboard Air Force Two to apologize for the article, which Biden had yet to read.

Obama got in touch with White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, requesting that he distribute the article to the president's senior advisers and to have them discuss its contents and begin to think about which course to take.

After reading the piece, Obama told aides that he thought McChrystal should be ordered to return for the monthly Situation Room meeting to be held Wednesday, the officials said. His advisers agreed.


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