WASHINGTON — Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Army Monday that he intends to retire, military officials said, less than a week after President Barack Obama fired him as the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The decision wasn't a surprise — McChrystal was unlikely to have received another appointment after being forced out over derogatory comments he and his staff made to a magazine reporter about key administration figures.
The speed with which he decided to leave the Army, however, underscored the drama of his dismissal. The son of a major general and a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, McChrystal once was widely celebrated as the commander who helped kill key members of al Qaida in Iraq and the best person to redirect a failing war effort in Afghanistan.
That all was forgotten, however, after Rolling Stone published an article in which McChrystal was quoted as saying that the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, "covers his flank for the history books," while McChrystal aides were quoted making disparaging remarks about Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Adviser Jim Jones. Eikenberry retired from the Army as a lieutenant general while Jones retired from the Marine Corps as a four-star general.
McChrystal apologized for the remarks and didn't dispute their authenticity. He'll retire as a lieutenant general, one rank lower than he currently holds, because he didn't serve as a four-star general for three years, as Pentagon rules require.
In choosing to retire, McChrystal is also following the lead of his predecessor, David McKiernan. Obama fired McKiernan last May when he nominated McChrystal for the job. McKiernan retired at the lesser rank of lieutenant general two months after his dismissal.
Not all dismissed war commanders leave so quickly. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded U.S. troops in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib scandal, was dismissed in 2004, but continued in the Army for two more years. He retired in 2006 after Pentagon officials concluded the Senate was unlikely to approve him for another senior post.
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