June 23, 2010 -- President Obama today relieved embattled Gen. Stanley McChrystal from his position as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, replacing him with General David Petraeus, currently head of United States Central Command.
McChrystal's comments, as detailed in the Rolling Stone article, "does not meet the standards that should be set by a commanding general," the president said. "It undermines the civilian control of the military... and it erodes the trust that is necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan."
The president praised McChrystal for his "deep intelligence" and "love of the country," but made it clear the comments McChrystal and his aides made could jeopardize the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
"All Americans should be grateful for Gen. McChrystal's remarkable career in uniform, but war is bigger than any one man or woman," the president said. "I believe it is the right decision for our national security."
The embattled general met Obama for about 30 minutes this morning and returned to his home in Ft. McNair, Washington, D.C., without attending the national security meeting.
Even before McChrystal's meeting with Obama, the White House had asked the Pentagon for a list of possible replacements, even though administration officials insisted a decision would not come until after McChrystal has made his case to the president.
McChrystal was prepared to resign but did not want to decide until he had met with Obama, a source close to the general said earlier today.
His behavior was "immature, irresponsible and unprofessional," retired Gen. George Joulwan said today on "Good Morning America."
McChrystal admitted during his round of phone calls to top Obama administration officials that he had "compromised the mission," a senior administration source told ABC News.
Whether he did so irrevocably was at the top of the agenda in McChrystal's Oval Office meeting with Obama this morning. The president likely pressed him as to what he was thinking when he made disparaging remarks about the president and his national security team that were reported by Rolling Stone. He was also asked whether he still had the ability to serve as commander of 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after making remarks that, if said about the general by an underling, would ordinarily be grounds for a staffer's dismissal.
Officials described the reaction within the West Wing as immediate anger and certainty that McChrystal be fired, followed by a willingness to hear the counterargument given the importance of the war, its perilous state, the fact that the story revealed no policy disagreements, how closely tied McChrystal is with the current strategy, and the fact that Gen. David McKiernan was dismissed from the same job last summer.
Obama: McChrystal Showed 'Poor Judgment'
On Tuesday, Obama said McChrystal and his team showed "poor judgment," but that he wanted to meet with him face to face before making a decision on whether to fire him.
Officials feared that McChrystal's influence would be diminished and could jeopardize the momentum of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. At the same time, officials realized how closely tied McChrystal was with the current counterinsurgency strategy, and the fact that Gen. David McKiernan was dismissed from the same job last summer could cause upheaval in operations on the ground.
The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai threw its support behind McChrystal, portrayed in the article as one of the very few U.S. leaders on the ground who often sided with Karzai.
"The president believes that we are in very sensitive juncture in our partnership, in our war on terror, in the process of bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan," Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omer said in a videoconference. "In that any gap in this process will not be helpful, so we hope that for the sake of the process to move forward smoothly and for the sake of the process not to be interrupted we hope that there is not a change of leadership in the international forces here in Afghanistan."
In the 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.
Hastings said McChrystal was fully aware of the notebook and tape recorder that the freelance journalist always had in his interviews.
"It was a sort of natural kind of recklessness that General McCrystal had, that has been with him through his entire career, as I understand it, I hear from the special forces community," Hastings told ABC News' Diane Sawyer Tuesday. "Their willingness to take a risk is a part of their whole persona. And inviting me in, was a obviously a risk, as it always is when you invite a journalist in."
McChrystal and his aides criticized several top U.S. officials, including U.S. special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke -- dubbed a "wounded animal." McChyrstal also said he felt betrayed by U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry for the ambassador's criticism of Karzai in a leaked cable.
One of the article's most disparaging remarks comes from an unnamed adviser to McChrystal, who described the general's first meeting with Obama.
"Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was," the aide said. "Here's the guy who's going to run his [expletive] war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The boss was pretty disappointed."
In his apology, McChrystal said he had "enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war" and said he remains "committed to ensuring its successful outcome."
In the article, McChrystal said the president criticized him for speaking too bluntly about needing more troops last fall.
"I found that time painful," McChrystal said in the article. "I was selling an unsellable position."
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.
"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 said.
The White House on Tuesday harshly rebuked the general's blunt comments and said "all options are on the table" when prodded about McChrystal's job prospects, while questioning his judgment and maturity.
"He was angry," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said of Obama's initial reaction to the story. "You would know it if you saw it."
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.
One of the parts of the story that really bothered Obama was the belittling of the French, whom the U.S. is asking to contribute more troops to the effort, a White House source said.
Rep. David Obey Called for McChrystal's Resignation
Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wisc., chairman of the House appropriations committee that overseas defense spending, called for McChrystal's removal, saying in a statement that while "anybody, including a U.S. Army general, is entitled to making a damn fool of themselves once," McChrystal "hasn't appeared to learn from his mistakes."
"His repeated contempt for the civilian chain of command demonstrates a bull headed refusal to take other people's judgments into consideration," Obey said. "That is damn dangerous in somebody whose decisions determine life and death for American troops and others in the region."
But outside of Obey, most lawmakers were subdued in their calls for resignation, even as they decried his remarks.
Vice President Joe Biden -- who one McChrystal adviser referred to as "Bite Me" -- did not comment, except to say he will have "plenty of time to talk about Afghanistan."
After news of the comments stunned the political and military circles from D.C. to Afghanistan, McChrystal quickly issued an apology for his "bad judgment."
"I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened," McChrystal said in a statement. "Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard."
McChrystal called nearly every figure mentioned in the article, including NATO allies, to apologize personally for his comments.
Duncan Boothby, a civilian press official in Afghanistan, resigned in the aftermath of the scandal.
NATO officials were quick with their own response, noting that it was "unfortunate" but "it is just an article."
"We are in the middle of a very real conflict, and the Secretary General has full confidence in Gen. McChrystal as the NATO commander, and in his strategy," NATO said in a statement.
ABC News' Miguel Marquez and Lee Ferran contributed to this report.