Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Eikenberry cables

Apparently an unnamed official has decided that Ambassador "Eikenberry's detailed assessments be made public, given that they were among the most important documents produced during the debate that led to the troop buildup." Given that the debate within the administration is over for the time being, the President has decided on a policy, and the policy is being implemented - oh, and that the cables are, ya know, classified - this strikes me as a really bad idea at this juncture.

Really, other than undermining any residual trust among senior officials (especially between civilians and military) and pissing off the Commander in Chief, what exactly is this going to accomplish?

Given the, ahem, vigor of his disagreement with McChystal last November, I was dubious that Eikenberry was a real contender for the soon-to-be-created top NATO civilian in Afghanistan. This would seem to make it all the more unlikely, and maybe that was the real point of the leak.

I've yet to read the cables themselves carefully, but the NYT's summary of the arguments makes them sound pretty weak: dangers of Afghan over-dependency (reminiscent of Iraq under Casey, and someone forgot to tell the Brits in SL); and I believe Lil could write a short dissertation in response to Eikenberry's concerns about the ANSF on why the conventional wisdom about attrition rates in ANA don't capture the whole story...that said I'm going to reserve judgment until I've read the originals in full.


  1. Ummm, he's still ambassador? The next dinner he has with Karzai is gonna be mad awkward, let me tell ya.

  2. MK--interesting. Good point on Sierra Leone. I would just add Liberia since we're on a over-dependency stretch.

    Come to that, we might want to have a broader discussion about local ownership and how it's best built. That's another dissertation topic (and yes, I will eventually post a dissertation on attrition rates but I want to get a few things straightened out first).

    In reading the memos, I was also struck by how much he emphasized the view that we should be saying "start doing doing this yourself by date X or we will stop supporting you" but without (at least that's what it looked like to me) a concomitant "we will help you learn how to sustainably do/manage/run/fund this yourself" plan. Yet in the same memo, he bemoans how long it takes to build institutional capacity.