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Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whose career ended after an unflattering depiction in a Rolling Stone article, accepted blame for the story but acknowledged Monday he had hoped the fallout wouldn’t cost him his job as U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
“I wanted to stay in the job, but I wanted to do what was best for the mission,” McChrystal said in his first live interview since stepping down from the position nearly three years ago. “I felt whatever that the president felt was best for the mission was what I needed to do, so I was happy to go with whatever decision that he made.”
McChrystal said he met President Obama with resignation in hand when he arrived at the White House immediately after the June 2010 publication of the article, “The Runaway General.” The article depicted McChrystal and his close aides disparaging the president and administration leaders, and not only ended his post as commander in Afghanistan but prematurely concluded a 34-year military career for the West Point graduate. He was immediately replaced by his supervisor at the time, Gen. David Petraeus.
On TODAY, McChrystal deflected answering whether the article accurately quoted his staff.
“That’s past. I accepted responsibility. I was in command,” he said. As commander, “you’re responsible for everything bad that happens and everything good, and I accept that.”
McChrystal barely devotes any space to the subject in his new book, “My Share of the Task,” which was released Monday.
“In my book, I outline that in about a page and a half of a 400-page book because that’s its level of importance,” he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “We were fighting a major war and in the scope of my career, there were a lot of things in leadership I dealt with. … I don’t think we need another book where we are finger-pointing.”
McChrystal would not disclose what Obama said to him during their meeting after the article ran, saying “what is said between the president and I in the Oval Office really needs to be between us.”
However, he described the tone as “very professional” and said his relationship with the president, both then and now, was a good one.
At the time, Obama called McChrystal’s resignation the “right strategy for our national security,” and he described war as bigger than any one individual.
McChrystal said trust is the key factor in building relationships between individuals and agencies. Asked about the president’s pick for the next Defense Secretary, he said he has no qualms about Chuck Hagel as long as the former Nebraska senator has the trust of the president and White House and Cabinet leaders.
“If President Obama trusts him, I think Senator Hagel has the experience,” he said. “He’s certainly got the quality as a person. The real matter is whether the president has that level of trust.”