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Did White House give a dressing-down to Gen. McChrystal for publicly objecting to new strategy?

October 5, 2009 |  8:36 am

President Obama meets in the Oval Office with Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan

It started in London last week, when Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who heads U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, told an audience at the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that he does not support a new military strategy being floated privately by Vice President Joe Biden.

The idea, under review at the White House, is to withdraw troops from Afghanistan towns and refocus them on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where Al Qaeda forces are headquartered. The alternative strategy also envisions using more drone missile strikes and special forces ops against the terrorist network.

During his remarks in London, McChrystal predicted that such a plan was "short-sighted," that it would produce "Chaos-istan" and that he would not support it.

Now, London's Telegraph is reporting that White House advisers were "shocked and angered" by the bluntness of McChrystal's remarks and noting that the very next day President Obama summoned the general for a 25-minute, one-on-one meeting aboard Air Force One as it sat on the runway in Copenhagen after the president's unsuccessful bid to win the 2016 Olympics for Chicago.

Asked if the president had told the general to tone down his remarks, National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones told CBS on Sunday: "I wasn't there so I can't answer that question. But it was an opportunity for them to get to know each other a little bit better. I am sure they exchanged direct views."

In fact, in a series of Sunday talk show appearances, Jones, a retired Marine general and former Allied commander in Europe, carried the administration's message that the military -- perhaps conditioned by the Bush administration to expect its opinions to reign -- had better respect civilian command.

"Ideally, it's better for military advice to come up through the chain of command," Jones told CNN. "I think that Gen. McChrystal and the others in the chain of command will present the president with not just one option, which does, in fact, tend to have a ... enforcing function, but a range of options that the president can consider."

I think in military lingo they call that a dressing-down.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: President Obama and Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Credit: Pete Souza / White House

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