Sen. Kerry says 'Stay Cool' on McChrystal

In the wake of fallout from reports of the as-yet-to-be-published Rolling Stone magazine profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the overall commander in Afghanistan, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is taking up for the general, calling him a “terrific soldier,” reminding everyone this is a “critical moment in Afghanistan.”

Kerry’s remarks this morning:

“I had a conversation with General McChrystal about a half hour ago and emphasized to him that I think obviously those are comments something that he’s going to have to deal with, with respect to the commander in chief, the vice president and his national security staff.

“I have enormous respect for General McChrystal.  He’s a terrific soldier and this is a critical moment in Afghanistan.  As far as I am concerned personally, the top priority is our mission in Afghanistan and our ability to proceed forward competently.  It will be up to the President of the United States as commander in chief to make the decision as to whether or not he and his national security staff feel that they can do that.

“But my impression is that all of us would be better served by just backing off and staying cool and calm and not succumbing to the normal washing twitter about this in the next 24 hours.

"We have troops on the front lines, we have a major mission we are in the middle of, and I think the priorities of that mission are best served by letting the president and his top general have their conversation and make a determination about how we proceed forward."

The controversy began over reports of questionable remarks made by the general and his aides in reference to Obama and key members of his administration.

From the Wall Street Journal:

In the eight-page article, released to reporters on Monday ahead of publication, McChrystal appears to belittle Vice President Joe Biden and accuses Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, of undermining his war plan within the administration.

Asked by the Rolling Stone reporter about what he now feels of the war strategy advocated by Biden last fall – fewer troops, more drone attacks – the article reports that McChrystal and his aides attempted to come up with a good one-liner to dismiss the question. “Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal reportedly jokes. “Who’s that?”

Later in the article, McChrystal turns more serious when asked about cables sent last fall to Washington by Eikenberry. The cables called into question the major troop increase advocated by McChrystal’s team and the U.S.’s backing of Afghan President Hamid Karzai — views that the ambassador had not previously raised with McChrystal or his staff.

“I like Karl, I’ve known him for years, but they’d never said anything like that to us before,” McChrystal is quoted as saying. “Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.’”

Comments in the article attributed to anonymous McChrystal aides are particularly harsh towards some senior members of the Obama administration, including National Security Adviser James Jones, and other leading politicians, like Sens. John Kerry (D., Mass.) and John McCain (R., Ariz). They also make some unflattering references to President Barack Obama himself, saying the president didn’t seem to know who McChrystal was when he appointed him to run the war early last year.

Only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is portrayed as having strongly backed McChrystal’s plan for Afghanistan, is singled out for praise by the anonymous McChrystal aides.

Gen. McChrystal has himself released a statement of apology:

“I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. 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.  I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome.”

Gen. McChrystal has been summed to the White House on Wednesday to explain his comments to Obama and his Afghanistan-Pakistan team.