WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Retiring U.S. Army General David McKiernan said on Wednesday he was “more than a little embarrassed” by his abrupt ouster from his job as top military commander in Afghanistan last spring.
During his retirement ceremony at Fort Myer, Virginia, McKiernan appeared alongside U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the man who fired him in May as head of U.S. and NATO forces and brought his 37-year-old Army career to an end.
“Make no mistake. I was dismayed, disappointed, more than a little embarrassed,” McKiernan told his audience.
McKiernan’s ouster puzzled many in the U.S. military because it came as the United States poured thousands of extra troops into Afghanistan as part of President Barack Obama’s plan to combat a growing Taliban insurgency.
His replacement by two highly rated Army generals, Stanley McChrystal and David Rodriguez, appears to suggest a new mood of urgency for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
Gates acknowledged at the time that McKiernan’s ouster would probably end the general’s career. The defense chief later criticized his own announcement, telling reporters: “I probably could have framed it better.”
On Wednesday, Gates heaped praise on the general for his “supreme professionalism, intelligence and dedication.”
McKiernan returned the favor by describing Gates as “the finest secretary of defense in my lifetime.”
Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Todd Eastham
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