WASHINGTON (CNN) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates insisted Wednesday that the recent ousting of Gen. David McKiernan as the top allied commander in Afghanistan was not made because of his general's requests for more troops or the rise in casualties.
Gates was asked about the decision to replace McKiernan with Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan at a House Armed Service Committee hearing. It was the first time a general of that ranking had been replaced during a war since President Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War.
The question, by Rep. Joseph Sestak, D-Pennsylvania, was whether it was fair to fire McKiernan since he wasn't given the resources he wanted, as the Iraq war was considered the top priority until just recently.
"This was an individual who by policy was given second choice on resources and never enough despite repeated requests," Sestak said.
McKiernan had asked for thousands of additional troops for the war in Afghanistan. Gates decided to send an additional 21,000 troops this summer, 10,000 less than McKiernan requested. Those additional troops will be decided on in 2010, Gates said.
Since the announcement of the command change, there have been questions as to whether McKiernan's insistence on even more troops was what did him in.
Gates defended the decision. He noted that troop levels have risen significantly from 32,000 in 2008 to 68,000 troops within the next few months.
"There has been a significant increase in those resources," Gates said.
"My decision to make those recommendations to the president had nothing to do with civilian casualties, had nothing to do with Gen. McKiernan's request for forces."
"I view what has happened to Gen. McKiernan as an accelerated change of command," Gates said. "There was no intent to convey anything negative or denigrate him in any way."
Gates insisted that McKiernan, who has served in the U.S. Army for more than 30 years, was not asked to resign from the service, only from the position as head of the Afghanistan command. But in making the announcement on Monday, Gates responded to a question about whether the removal ended McKiernan's career with a one-word response.
"Probably," he said.