Ambassador Eikenberry Dissents from Troop Surge Consensus


Before being appointed U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry was a Lieutenant-General in the Army. That gives him perhaps an unusual sense of his own ability to make recommendations about military policy in the country. Recommendations that Greg Jaffe, Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung are at odds with the idea of sending more troops:

The U.S. ambassador in Kabul sent two classified cables to Washington in the past week expressing deep concerns about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until President Hamid Karzai’s government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the Taliban’s rise, senior U.S. officials said.

Spencer Ackerman reports that there’s considerable anger at the way this got leaked to the Washington Post but at the same time Eikenberry’s concerns are being taken seriously and the process seems to have been a bit derailed:

Despite the dissatisfaction with Eikenberry’s apparent leak, according to the staffer, Obama “demanded” an exit strategy for the war “after Eikenberry’s cables.” Certain members of the NSC dialed into the conference from the Fort Bragg, N.C. headquarters of the Joint Special Operations Command, which is playing a large if underreported role in shaping Afghanistan strategy. It would appear that much remains fluid in the administration’s strategy debates.

Helene Cooper has a good piece in the New York Times on the related issue that unless the United States is prepared to withdraw under some circumstances we have little practical leverage over Hamid Karzai. I think you can make the case that the alleged need to have Karzai clean up his act is overstated, but I think it’s true that if it’s genuinely necessary to get him to clean up his act then an unconditional commitment to pour more resources into the country is a poor way to produce that outcome.