The leak of two cables from U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl
Eikenberry to President Obama have raised concerns over the official
relationship between the U.S. and Afghan governments. Eikenberry's
cables cite the corruption and weakness of Afghan President Hamid
Karzai as a top concern and warn Obama against sending more troops to
Afghanistan. Commentators are raising two important questions: Why were
the cables leaked and what will this mean for our already troubled
relationship with Karzai?
- Did Eikenberry Leak Them? Spencer Ackerman reports
sources who point to a rivalry between Eikenberry and General Stanley
McChrystal, the top military commander in Afghanistan. "The prevailing
theory is that 'he leaked his own cables' because 'he has a beef with
McChrystal,' the staffer said. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Eikenberry’s
successor as NATO commander in Afghanistan, has requested an increase
in troops," Ackerman writes. "Eikenberry’s high-profile dissent on a
troop increase is likely to
aggravate tensions with his former command. Over the summer, McChrystal
and Eikenberry worked out a plan for civilian-military cooperation in
Afghanistan that 'aligns [U.S.] efforts on a single objective: the
people of Afghanistan.'"
- Knee-Capping of Eikenberry Andrew Exum anticipates that the leaked cables will strain the very important U.S.-Afghan diplomatic relationship. "It's now common knowledge that
Karl Eikenberry -- the U.S. ambassador -- thinks you, Hamid Karzai,
lead a collection of corrupt and ineffective goons unworthy of further
U.S. investment! Whoever leaked these classified cables has cut the
knees out from underneath the most important U.S. representative in
Kabul! All of this is to say that Karl Eikenberry -- whatever you think of
the man -- got royally screwed by some short-sighted jerks in the 202
area code. The cables had already been deliberated upon by the
president and his advisors, but that wasn't enough, so some idiots
decided to also make the cables public knowledge. Now whatever U.S.
policy goes forward -- counterinsurgency, counter-terror, withdrawal,
rape and pillage, whatever -- is going to suffer for the soured
relationship between our man in Kabul and the government of Afghanistan."
- Making Up With Karzai Spencer Ackerman evaluates
the troubled Karzai-Eikenberry relationship. "[I]n late 2006, on the
heels of the surge, [U.S. National Security Adviser] Steve Hadley wrote
a rather scathing vote of no confidence in [Iraqi President] Nouri
al-Maliki that made its way to the press. That didn't stop Maliki from
cooperating with the Bush administration.
That said, I can see all the ways in which this is different from
that. Eikenberry is the guy who has to deal with Karzai’s people every
day, a much different bureaucratic arrangement from
national-security-adviser Hadley. And Karzai knows — really, really
knows — that the Obama administration has no confidence in him and is
just stuck. Eikenberry needs, to put it bluntly, to unfuck this
- An Out For Obama The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan thinks,
deliberate or no, the leaked cables could help Obama withdraw. "I
suspect Eikenberry has given Obama the opening he needs to leave
Afghanistan and refuse to commit more young Americans to the defense of
a corrupt government and the prosecution of an unending war that no
longer serves a core national interest for the US. If Obama does that,
it will take enormous courage. It will reveal a strength of character
and judgment that America and the world now need."
- Another Eikenberry Fumble Foreign Policy's Thomas Ricks is
no fan of Eikenberry's work. "How to screw up things royally: So U.S.
Ambassador to Afghanistan (nee General) Eikenberry doesn't
to give Afghan President Karzai a blank check? No one does. But anyone
attention knows that Eikenberry and Karzai have been like oil and water
Eikenberry was the top American general in Afghanistan. I think it was
move to put him in there as our top diplomat."
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
mfisher at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.