A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One Comment on the Eikenberry Leak

I haven't posted much lately about Afghanistan because it gets pretty well covered everywhere else, it's a country I don't know personally, and Abu Muqawama covers the ground pretty thoroughly in the blog world.

Today's big Washington Post leak of Ambassador Karl Eikenberry's memos opposing a buildup so long as the Karzai government is so corrupt has of course been DC's topic of the day. Abu Muqawama has a well-written post noting that some critics of the Pentagon in the Democratic Party still seem to be stuck in the Vietnam era and to assume a monolithic Pentagon advocating constant buildups. He links to a Laura Rozen column at Politico that includes these kinds of observations:
They also seem to demonstrate continued Obama White House resistance to getting railroaded by the generals to choosing from a set of options that all reportedly include increasing the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, from an outlier additional 10,000 troops to the additional 40,000 troops requested by McChrystal. In this "menu" presented to the White House, the Pentagon and its influential chief Robert Gates, have backed a "hybrid" option that would add an additional 30,000 to 35,000 troops to Afghanistan with an additional 10,000 kicked in by other NATO countries.
I've never met Ambassador Eikenberry, but since he seems to be portrayed as opposed to "the generals" in the debate over Afghanistan, perhaps I should remind everyone of one thing that many seem to be missing (though Rozen mentions it elsewhere in her article): Karl Eikenberry was a Lieutenant General in the United States Army and Commander in Afghanistan before he became Ambassador. It's not exactly the penstriped suits versus the brass hats here, folks.

Earlier, Exum had posted on "Throwing Karl Under the Bus," noting that the leak of the Eikenberry memos is going to neutralize Eikenberry's effectiveness as Ambassador to the Karzai Government, which raises questions of whether whoever leaked it realized the effect on his effectiveness as a diplomat. But I think the main point I want to make is that this isn't a dispute between the diplomats and the generals: there really are divisions in the military itself over this, and Eikenberry was a three-star not long ago himself.

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