In his first comments on the controversy generated by Gen. Stanley McChrystal's comments in a Rolling Stone article, President Obama said the top U.S. general in Afghanistan showed "poor judgment," but that he wanted to meet with McChrystal face to face before making a decision on whether to fire him.
"General McChrystal is on his way here and I am going to meet with him. [Defense Secretary Robery Gates] will meet with him as well," Obama told reporters today. "I think it's clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed poor judgment. But I also want to make sure I talk to him directly before I make any final decisions."
Sources tell ABC News that Obama administration officials are embroiled in an intense debate about whether to fire McChrystal, the top U.S. general in the war in Afghanistan.
The White House today harshly rebuked the general's blunt comments and said "all options are on the table" when prodded about McChrystal's job prospects. But White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said no decision will be made until President Obama has met with McChrystal.
Obama was more than unhappy after reading the Rolling Stone story Monday night, Gibbs said today. "He was angry," Gibbs said. "You would know it if you saw it."
McChrystal had not called the president, who believed the general had made an "enormous mistake in judgment that he's going to have to answer to," Gibbs said.
Obama recalled McChrystal following the magazine interview in which McChrystal criticized several top U.S. officials and said he felt betrayed by the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. McChrystal on Wednesday will explain his remarks in person to the president and his Cabinet in a monthly meeting that he normally attends via videoconference.
"The president will speak with General McChrystal about his comments and we'll have more to say after the meeting," Gibbs told reporters today, adding that the commander will have the president's "undivided attention tomorrow."
What bothered Obama the most about McChrystal's comments was that "we're distracting from what the president considers to be an enormously vital mission for our country and our forces," Gibbs said.
In a profile by Michael Hastings, published in Rolling Stone, titled "The Runaway General," McChrystal is characterized as an outsider who did not relate well with the administration, and as a military leader who was "disappointed" with his first meeting with the president.
The story has raised questions about the issue of trust between the White House and the man running the show in Afghanistan, which has now become the United States' longest war ever.
The article outlines the disappointment McChrystal felt at Obama and all the key players in Afghanistan.
"I think they were frustrated with how the policy was going, and I think it was an attempt on their part to get the message out on that frustration," Hastings told ABC News' Diane Sawyer today.
A debate has also been spurred about the impact of McChrystal's damaging comments on the morale of troops in Afghanistan.
President Hamid Karzai today threw his support behind McChrystal, painted in the article as one of the very few U.S. leaders on the ground who often sided with Karzai.