U.S. President Barack Obama accepted the resignation Wednesday of his top commander in Afghanistan, Army General Stanley McChrystal, and named General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. Central Command to replace him.
After more than a day of suspense in Washington, President Obama announced that he accepted McChrystal's resignation.
"I did so with considerable regret, but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military and for our country," he said.
Mr. Obama had ordered the commander to return to Washington from Afghanistan to explain a series of comments in Rolling Stone magazine by McChrystal and members of his staff. They were quoted as mocking Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Adviser James Jones and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, among others. Neither McChrystal nor his aides questioned the quotes or the accuracy of the story.
The president said dismissing the commander was the right decision.
"The conduct represented in the recently-published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that is necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan," said the president.
The president said he is nominating Army General David Petraeus, to replace McChrystal as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama reassured Americans and allies that bringing in General Petraeus represents a change in personnel, not a change in policy.
"He both supported and helped design the strategy that we have in place," he said. "In his current post at Central Command, he has worked closely with our forces in Afghanistan, he has worked closely with Congress, he has worked closely with the Afghan and Pakistan governments, and with all our partners in the region," he added.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other top Afghan officials had expressed confidence in McChrystal and hoped that he would not be removed.
The controversy comes as coalition forces have spent months struggling to control the town of Marja and preparing for an assault on Kandahar province.
It also emphasizes a series of disagreements within the Obama administration about how to proceed in Afghanistan.
The president says it is time for the squabbling to end.
"I have just told my national security team that now is the time for all of us to come together. Doing so is not an option, but an obligation. I welcome debate among my team. But I will not tolerate division," said Mr. Obama.
The Petraeus nomination will require Senate confirmation. Mr. Obama appealed to lawmakers to quickly approve General Petraeus, whose leadership he says, will help maintain the momentum and leadership the United States needs to succeed.
The chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton, quickly praised Petraeus as "the best that we have."
This is not the first time that McChrystal's comments have landed him in trouble. President Obama criticized the general last year for campaigning publicly for an increased number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.