From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, who had sponsored Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as commander in Afghanistan, expressed profound disappointment in his judgment Thursday — tempered with thanks for his years in combat — after he was fired from the post. The dismissal followed publication of a profile of the four-star general in Rolling Stone that quoted him and his aides disparaging other officials.
“Honestly, when I first read it, I was nearly sick,” said Admiral Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Mr. Gates said he wholly supported the decision by President Obama to retire General McChrystal, who had helped design the administration’s risky and expensive strategy of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and was in charge of implementing it.
During a Pentagon news conference, Mr. Gates and Admiral Mullen made their first lengthy comments on the controversy and the command change. They were both clearly saddened by the sidelining of one of the military’s most combat-tested Special Operations officers.
Mr. Gates conceded that in his advice to Mr. Obama about the matter, he had expressed concern that a change of command would sap the war effort of momentum at a pivotal moment, when by all accounts it is already proceeding more slowly than expected.
It was Mr. Obama’s suggestion to give the job to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former commander in Iraq who now leads American forces across the Middle East; Mr. Gates said that the choice of General Petraeus eased his mind.
Well aware that a perception of disarray in the American and NATO military headquarters in Kabul might worry American troops and allies while emboldening the insurgency, Mr. Gates spoke directly to all of those audiences.
“No one — be they adversaries or friends, or especially our troops — should misinterpret these personnel changes as a slackening of this government’s commitment to the mission in Afghanistan,” Mr. Gates said.
For his part, Admiral Mullen spoke of the pre-eminence of civilian control of the military.
“We do not have the right, nor should we ever assume the prerogative, to cast doubt upon the ability or mock the motives of our civilian leaders, elected or appointed,” Admiral Mullen said. “We are and must remain a neutral instrument of the state, accountable to and respectful of those leaders, no matter which party holds sway or which person holds a given office.”
The Rolling Stone article continued a number of quotations attributed to General McChrystal and his aides that were rude and dismissive of members of Mr. Obama’s national security team.