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November 11, 2009

Afghanistan Mission Creep Watch - The Karl Eikenberry, I Could Kiss You Version
Posted by Michael Cohen

Earlier tonight I was preparing to come home and write a long and anguished blog post about how President Obama was on the verge of sending his presidency off a cliff by approving the dispatching of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. So you can imagine my gleeful surprise when I came home to read this:

President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

After the increasingly depressing leaks of the past few days, this is just stunning news. And it gets even more interesting . . . because apparently our man in Kabul - Ambassador Karl Eikenberry -- may well be leading the charge:

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.

What's perhaps most interesting is that Ikenberry's concern seems to pretty closely dovetail with the issue raised in today's NYT article about Obama's concern that Karzai is not a serious partner for a counter-insurgency:

Ikenberry has expressed deep reservations about Karzai's erratic behavior and corruption within his government, said U.S. officials familiar with the cables. Since Karzai was officially declared reelected last week, U.S. diplomats have seen little sign that the Afghan president plans to address the problems they have raised repeatedly with him.

U.S. officials were particularly irritated by a interview this week in which a defiant Karzai said that the West has little interest in Afghanistan and that its troops are there only for self-serving reasons.

And the Times advances the story even further:

General Eikenberry sent his reservations to Washington in a cable last week, the officials said. In that same period, President Obama and his national security advisers have begun examining an option that would send relatively few troops to Afghanistan, about 10,000 to 15,000, with most designated as trainers for the Afghan security forces.

. . . Pentagon officials said the low-end option of 10,000 to 15,000 more troops would mean little or no significant increase in American combat forces in Afghanistan. The bulk of the additional forces would go to train the Afghan Army, with a smaller number focused on hunting and killing terrorists, the officials said.The low-end option would essentially reject the more ambitious counterinsurgency strategy envisioned by General McChrystal, which calls for a large number of forces to protect the Afghan population, work on development projects and build up the country’s civil institutions.

I'm really not sure what to make of all this; the leaking that is going on here is just ridiculous. It's very possible that this is a trial balloon meant to light a fire underKarzai . But honestly I don't think so. Instead, I think President Obama is taking charge of his Afghan policy in a significant and long overdue way - and more important, standing up to his generals and national securityadvisors who seem to want to shoot first and ask questions later. 

For what it's worth, that's change I can believe in.

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I personally find Eikenberry's opinion a much welcomed addition to the debate. For some reason, the discussion has focused around what we should do with troop levels in Afghanistan - a focus which is symptomatic of both McCrystal and Exum, a focus which is detrimental to our foreign policy and our goals at home and abroad. We often forget, while wading through the detritus of how many troops and how to deploy them, that the goal of any violent state action is inherently *political.* McCrystal has no right to be "fuming" about this (quoted from the recent BBC article on the subject) - this is the reassertion of the political over the military, the act of placing the diplomatic where it belongs in any sound COIN strategy: at the top of the list of prerogatives. Close attention to the new Counterinsurgency Manual put out by the Army and Marines will show the same thing - diplomacy is supreme. Even a cursory reading of the magnum opus of COIN the "USMC Small Wars Manual" will place the diplomatic venture as the primary consideration.

It is high time that someone returned sanity to the conduct of American foreign policy. Hoh and Eikenberry (and one can only hope Obama) are doing their part.

Unless we develop a comprehensive South Asia strategy, the most we can hope for is a temporary peace in Afghanistan.

What would such a strategy look like? Well, at the very least it requires some moderation of the strategic competition between India and Pakistan. Without attention to this aspect of the problem, we really are only playing around at the edges of the conflict.

For more, there's a good piece here: http://bit.ly/3vYHPk

Obama will likely lose this war for us- he clearly lacks the judgement, dedication, and principle to win such a labrilynthine conflict.

He already was caught dozing while the Russians nabbed the Kyrgizstani air base SO vital to any plans for a US "surge" strategy in Afghanistan. -

The clueless Obama (and foreign-policy "expert" Biden) were the most vocal opponents of the Petraeus Surge strategy in Iraq, with Slow Joe coming-up with a harebrained plan to surrender and split the country 3-ways. If America had followed their advice then, Iraq would be an Al Qaida Caliphate by now.

Of course, the media is too preoccupied with articles on the Dear Leader's puppy-vetting process and how he likes to play basketball to call him on these serious strategic errors... reality starting to hit hard now, though-

http://reaganiterepublicanresistance.blogspot.com

Afghanistan very specific country.
War in Afghanistan will be lost.

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I personally find Eikenberry's opinion a much welcomed addition to the debate. For some reason, the discussion has focused around what we should do with troop levels in Afghanistan - a focus which is symptomatic of both McCrystal and Exum, a focus which is detrimental to our foreign policy and our goals at home and abroad. We often forget, while wading through the detritus of how many troops and how to deploy them, that the goal of any violent state action is inherently *political.* McCrystal has no right to be "fuming" about this (quoted from the recent BBC article on the subject) - this is the reassertion of the political over the military, the act of placing the diplomatic where it belongs in any sound COIN strategy: at the top of the list of prerogatives. Close attention to the new Counterinsurgency Manual put out by the Army and Marines will show the same thing - diplomacy is supreme. Even a cursory reading of the magnum opus of COIN the "USMC Small Wars Manual" will place the diplomatic venture as the primary consideration.

I personally find Eikenberry's opinion a much welcomed addition to the debate. For some reason, the discussion has focused around what we should do with troop levels in Afghanistan - a focus which is symptomatic of both McCrystal and Exum, a focus which is detrimental to our foreign policy and our goals at home and abroad. We often forget, while wading through the detritus of how many troops and how to deploy them, that the goal of any violent state action is inherently *political.* McCrystal has no right to be "fuming" about this (quoted from the recent BBC article on the subject) - this is the reassertion of the political over the military, the act of placing the diplomatic where it belongs in any sound COIN strategy: at the top of the list of prerogatives. Close attention to the new Counterinsurgency Manual put out by the Army and Marines will show the same thing - diplomacy is supreme. Even a cursory reading of the magnum opus of COIN the "USMC Small Wars Manual" will place the diplomatic venture as the primary consideration.

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Hi,
I had heard that the United States ambassador in Kabul, Gen Karl Eikenberry, had urged Barack Obama not to send more troops to Afghanistan to prop up Hamid Karzai’s government.

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