By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON - Judgment and civilian control of the military were at the heart of President Barack Obama's decision to accept Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's resignation as the NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday.
Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both said they "fully support" Obama's decision and his nomination of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus to replace McChrystal.
"Like the president, I deeply regret the circumstances that made this decision necessary," Gates said during a Pentagon news conference. "General McChrystal is one of the finest officers and warriors of his generation, who has an extraordinary record in leading the fight against some of this country's most lethal enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Gates and Mullen said McChrystal showed poor judgment with regard to the Rolling Stone profile in which he and members of his staff were critical of administration officials. The situation "has made his continued service in that post and as a member of the national security team untenable," Gates said. "The statements and attitudes reported in the news media are unacceptable under our form of government, and are inconsistent with the high standards expected of military leaders."
The chairman said he was stunned when he read the Rolling Stone profile.
"I cannot excuse his lack of judgment with respect to the Rolling Stone article or a command climate he evidently permitted that was at best disrespectful of civilian authority," Mullen said. "We do not have that luxury, those of us in uniform. We do not have the right, nor should we ever assume the prerogative, to cast doubt upon the ability or mock the motives of our civilian leaders, elected or appointed."
Military personnel are and must remain a neutral instrument of the government, he said. Servicemembers must be accountable to and respectful of civilian leaders "no matter which party holds sway or which person holds a given office," Mullen said.
Military leaders must step down when they lose the trust and confiden