Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry

Karl Eikenberry is the US Ambassador to Afghanistan. Prior to his appointment as Ambassador, Eikenberry was a lieutenant general in the Army and commander of US forces in Afghanistan (he was succeeded by David McKiernan, who was then succeeded by Stanley McChrystal).

Eikenberry grew up in Goldsboro, North Carolina, went to West Point, and has degrees from Harvard and Stanford. He speaks Chinese.

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Eikenberry has been in the news this week because two cables from him were leaked to the press. In the cables, Eikenberry argues that President Obama should not send more troops until the Afghan government becomes more competent.

This was absolutely stunning news to me -- the American who would seemingly know more than anyone else about the reality of the military and political situations there is arguing against the imminent increase in troop levels!!

354. Is Eikenberry's opinion swaying Obama at all? The news this week has been that he's settled on 30,000 additional troops, but wouldn't (shouldn't?) Eikenberry's opposition influence his thinking?

According to an article in the Post (here), Eikenberry is particularly distressed by Hamid Karzai's erratic behavior and irresponsible public comments (for instance, Karzai recently told Jim Lehrer that whether or not the UN presence is reduced after the attack of a couple of weeks ago, "I don't think Afghanistan will notice").

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In other news about Afghanistan, Peter Baker has an article in this morning's Times (here) reporting that there have been delays in implementing Russia's agreement to allow the US military access to Russian airspace in order to supply the troops in Afghanistan. Baker says that the difficulties illustrate the problem of improving the US/Russian relationship:
The failure so far to translate words into reality amid bureaucratic delays, including one involving a Russian agency insisting on charging air navigation fees that the Kremlin had said would be waived, underscores the challenges of Mr. Obama’s effort to transform ties between Washington and Moscow. For all of the lofty sentiments expressed at high-profile summit meetings, actual change has never been easy to deliver.
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Obama is in Japan right now, for the start of a nine day trip in Asia. The Prime Minister of Japan is very tall.

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