Andrew Exum really puts his back into this post.
This is bound to strain Eikenberry’s relationship with Hamid Karzai and the U.S. military.
Within U.S. military circles, expect grumbling about who, exactly, was in charge during the years (2005-2007) in which the war in Afghanistan took a turn for the worse. The answer? Karl Eikenberry, of course. Is that unfair? Absolutely. Sarah Chayes describes what took place in those years as a Pakistani invasion of Afghanistan by proxy, and Eikenberry had no hope of resisting that with his meager resources. But when compared with those of his predecessor and successor — David Barno and David McKiernan, respectively — Eikenberry’s term in Afghanistan is spoken of in less than glowing terms, and some within the military might start blaming Eikenberry for having helped get us into this mess in the first place and now standing in the way of getting us out.
That is some good anticipatory pushback from Ex. I’m reminded of the IDF incinerating whole Egyptian air wings on the runway.
One point here I might want to contest a bit:
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!
I guess I want to caveat that more than I want to contest it, because the point seems pretty right-on. But I want to violate my own Prime Directive — no talking about Afghanistan like it’s Iraq — and recall that in late 2006, on the heels of the surge, Steve Hadley wrote a rather scathing vote of no confidence in 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 relationship. My sources tell me that the suspicion in the White House is that Eikenberry leaked his cables. If he did, I guess the only explanation that makes sense is that he did it to pressure Karzai, Hadley-style. But could that work?