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Pentagon investigation casts doubt on Rolling Stone's McChrystal article

Embarrassing comments by then-top commander in Afghanistan could not be verified by Defense officials.

Defense Department investigators say they couldn't find military officials close to Gen. Stanley McChrystal to verify inflammatory quotes and anecdotes in a June 2010 Rolling Stone article, casting doubt on the published comments that cost the Army general his job as the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and ended his 34-year military career.

In a report released on Monday, the Department of Defense Inspector General said the office could not confirm the most controversial comments in the story. Other comments, according to the report, were merely taken out of context.

"Not all of the events at issue occurred as reported in the article. In some instances, we found no witness who acknowledged making or hearing the comments as reported," according to the report. "In other instances, we confirmed that the general substance of an incident at issue occurred, but not in the exact context described in the article."

Rolling Stone still stands by the report, in which McChrystal and his top aides were quoted criticizing the Obama administration and its handling of the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon's inspector general offered no "credible sources" to contradict the facts in the story, the magazine said in a statement.

The magazine said it's "not surprising" defense investigators couldn't find witnesses to confirm the quotes in the piece.

"The civilian and military advisers questioned by the Pentagon knew that their careers were on the line if they admitted to making such comments," the magazine said in its statement. "Asking unnamed sources to reveal their identities strikes us as an exercise in futility."

What's more, Rolling Stone said, McChrystal issued an apology after the story was published and said the comments in it fell "far short" of his personal standard.

The Pentagon report follows an Army inspector general report from August, which attributed certain derogatory statements directly to officials. Oddly, the DOD Inspector General said the Army IG didn't interview those officials before attributing the statements to them. The Pentagon IG has redacted the names of those officials in its report.

Pentagon investigators re-interviewed six officials, and interviewed another 10 who were not under the Army's jurisdiction. They also reviewed "appropriate documentary evidence," such as transcripts of emails, interviews, and travel documentation in the Army's report.

DOD investigators asked McChrystal for an interview, but he declined. He'd already been interviewed by the Army. Michael Hastings, the author of the article, also refused an interview, but Rolling Stone executive editor Eric Bates agreed to talk to investigators.

Bates would not divulge the names of specific officials, but he gave investigators a description of witnesses to some of the more controversial remarks in the article. Investigators, however, still could not identify the witnesses to verify the comments.

In the end, the Pentagon IG found no evidence of McChrystal and his aides violating Defense Department standards. "None of the matters we reviewed warrant further investigation," the report states. "We make no recommendations in this matter."

McChrystal returned to public service last week, helping to oversee a program supporting military families.