Hero's send-off for sacked general

THE former top commander in Afghanistan who was fired after making scathing comments about president Barack Obama and his civilian advisers received a hero's send-off from Pentagon and Afghan leaders at his retirement ceremony on Friday.

"My service did not end as I would have wished," General Stanley McChrystal conceded in a speech in which he spoke publicly for the first time about the scandal. He also expressed gratitude for his military career and cracked jokes about his downfall and future role.

The ceremony, which included a musical salute, came just a month after McChrystal was summoned to the White House, where an angry Obama fired the general who had spearheaded his revised war strategy in Afghanistan.

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Defence secretary Robert Gates flew back from Asia to see the general off at Fort McNair in Washington.

In attendance were dozens of officials, including Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States - a reflection of McChrystal's good standing within the military and Afghan government despite the scandal over comments he and his aides made to a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine.

Gates called the retiring general "one of the finest men at arms this country has produced", and credited him with carrying out Obama's orders in Afghanistan with devotion.

McChrystal told the audience: "There are misperceptions about the loyalty and service of some dedicated professionals that will likely take some time but I believe will be corrected."

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