Parties support Obama's decision to replace McChrystal

Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman are backing President Obama's decision to remove Gen. Stanley McChrystal from the top position in Afghanistan and replace him with Gen. David Petraeus.
By Perry Bacon Jr.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010; 4:51 PM

Members of both parties on Capitol Hill backed President Obama's decision to replace Stanley McChrystal after the general and his staff disparaged members of the president's national security team in an article in Rolling Stone magazine.

Obama named Gen. David H. Petraeus to replace McChrystal as commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

"I appreciate the bravery and service of General McChrystal, and I understand and respect the president's decision concerning General McChrystal," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the leading voices in Congress on defense issues and often a vocal critic of Obama. "I applaud the appointment of General Petraeus."

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also signaled support.

"The commander in chief has made it clear no one is bigger than the mission and nothing less than a unified effort in Afghanistan will get the job done," Kerry said. "His decision to return General Petraeus to the battlefield provides not just continuity in philosophy, but tested diplomatic skill."

House Republican leader John Boehner (Ohio) said in a statement: "I have great respect for General McChrystal and the job he's done in Afghanistan and elsewhere in service of our country, but I respect the decision of our Commander-in-Chief. . . . General Petraeus has also dedicated his career to this country, and he deserves great credit for his leadership in helping to stabilize Iraq and bring it to a critical transition point this summer. I believe he is the right person take over this command."

After the magazine article was made public Tuesday, members of both parties strongly criticized McChrystal, even as they said the decision to fire him was up to Obama. Several Democrats, including House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (Wis.), a critic of Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan, immediately called for the general to step down. Supporters of the increase in troops, such as McCain and Boehner, were quiet on whether Obama should keep McChrystal.

But the parties don't agree on how or if the U.S. policy on Afghanistan should change with the new leadership. McCain suggested the entire Afghanistan team under Obama should be reevaluated and that the administration should consider bringing in Ryan Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009 and worked with Petraeus.

McCain said he would use Petraeus's confirmation hearings to press him and the administration to consider delaying a plan to start withdrawing troops in July 2011 if keeping current troop levels are necessary to stabilize the country.

Some House Democrats, including Obey, disagree with a troop increase and want to start the drawdown earlier.

But Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who has urged the administration to come up with a timetable on troop withdrawal, said Wednesday: "The comments of General McChrystal and his aides were very troubling, and the president's decision to accept his resignation is appropriate. But I continue to have strong concerns about our misguided policy in Afghanistan."

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