November 12, 2009

Throwing Karl Under the Bus

Well whoever leaked the fact that Karl Eikenberry is deeply skeptical of the effects of a troop increase in Afghanistan certainly had the desired effect as far as the Washington debate was concerned, but they also sure as hell made life very difficult for Karl Eikenberry. 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. 

All of that, though, is minor compared with the problems EIkenberry now faces with the Karzai regime. Last week Michael Semple bluntly stated that the most important dynamic in Afghanistan was the relationship between the "international community" (for which we should read, he said: "United States of America") and the government of Afghanistan. Well how is that going to work now? 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.

We have seen the enemy, and it is us.

Update: Or am I wrong? Did he leak his own cables? If so, what a silly thing to do.

Update II: Read the time stamps of these posts. (1, 2) Was Andrew Sullivan reading this blog on an airplane? Seriously, man, you're on a plane: put down the laptop and read a paperback novel like a normal human being!