July 18 (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Sunday it was too soon to judge if a surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan was winning the war and insisted he bore no ill will toward General Stanley McChrystal.
President Barack Obama fired McChrystal last month after a magazine interview in which members of a team led by the top U.S. general in Afghanistan belittled Biden and called Obama’s national security adviser a “clown.”
“I wasn’t the clown. I was the guy who, in fact, was their problem, they thought. I’m not their problem,” Biden told ABC News’ “This Week” program.
McChrystal’s interview with Rolling Stone magazine exposed divisions between the White House and the military on how to conduct the Afghan war.
A member of his team joked about the vice president. “Biden?” the aide was quoted as saying. “Did you say: ‘Bite me?’” Another aide called national security adviser Jim Jones a clown who was “stuck in 1985.”
“I didn’t take it personally at all. I really, honest to God, didn’t. Compared to what happens in politics, this is — that was a piece of cake,” Biden said.
But Biden said the situation left McChrystal in an untenable position and that six four-star generals had advised the vice president that he must go.
“I met with McChrystal. The president met with McChrystal. He was — he was really apologetic. He knew they had gone way beyond. But we also knew that if a sergeant did that, if a lieutenant did that — I mean no one could stay,” Biden said.
Obama replaced McChrystal by putting General David Petraeus in charge of the war in Afghanistan.
U.S. troops are encountering stiff resistance and mounting casualties from a resurgent Taliban, despite a six-month buildup in U.S. forces. But Biden said it was too early to say if the strategy was working or not.
“We knew it was going to be a tough slog. But I think it’s much too premature to make a judgment until the military said we should look at it, which is in December,” Biden said, adding that it would take until August to complete the troop surge.
(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Eric Walsh)