The Eikenberry Cables.

You may remember that during the deliberations over what to do in Afghanistan a few months ago, it was reported that President Obama abruptly tossed out all the options his advisers presented him after receiving cables from Ambassador Karl Eikenberry that opposed sending more troops to the country. Well, now the New York Times has them in full. Some excerpts:

“Sending additional forces will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it difficult, if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable,” he wrote Nov. 6. “An increased U.S. and foreign role in security and governance will increase Afghan dependence, at least in the short-term.”

... “President Karzai is not an adequate strategic partner. The proposed counterinsurgency strategy assumes an Afghan political leadership that is both able to take responsibility and to exert sovereignty in the furtherance of our goal — a secure, peaceful, minimally self-sufficient Afghanistan hardened against transnational terrorist groups."

... And while General McChrystal warned of failure if additional troops were not deployed, Mr. Eikenberry concluded by cautioning of competing risks “that we will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves, short of allowing the country to descend again into lawlessness and chaos.”

Spencer Ackerman makes a strong argument that Obama incorporated Eikenberry's concerns into the new strategy; while the plan was adapted to suit some of the ambassador's criticisms, I still wonder if the broader point Eikenberry made didn't quite take hold. For instance, Spencer is right that development efforts that circumvent the centralized government will help avoid the problems of dealing with Karzai. But how does that contribute to a sustainable central government capable of keeping al-Qaeda at bay when the U.S. does look to transition responsibility to the Afghans?

Brian Katulis also has a new piece on the fleshed out strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan that's worth your time.

-- Tim Fernholz

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