US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry.
The New York Times has dropped a bombshell by publishing Ambassador Karl Eikenberry’s memos that were written in early November that explained his opposition to the ‘surge’ of 30,000 US forces in Afghanistan. According to Eikenberry, who served as the top commander in Afghanistan for an 18-month stint that ended in 2007, Afghan President Hamid Karzai “is not an adequate strategic partner.” He also believes that the Afghan government only sought to draw the US in further and has no capacity for sustaining the local governance needed for success. Eikenberry is concerned that the Afghan security forces are unable to fill the role of quickly transitioning security, worries about the cost of the venture, and feels the Obama administration is putting undue trust in Pakistan to police the Taliban on its side of the border.
Eikenberry makes a compelling case against the surge. Several of his concerns, particularly the rush to push the Afghan security forces into the field, many units of which do not yet exist, and the Taliban and al Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan, were raised here at both The Long War Journal and Threat Matrix.
The memos also show that the top military and diplomatic leaders in Afghanistan are not in sync as they were during the Iraq surge. The relationship between General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker was instrumental in the success of the Iraqi surge. While the Times said Eikenberry’s concerns were alleviated, there is no indication any of his concerns were even addressed.
More troops won’t end the insurgency as long as Pakistan sanctuaries remain. Pakistan will remain the single greatest source of Afghan instability so long as the border sanctuaries remain, and Pakistan views its strategic interests as best served by a weak neighbor. There is reason to be encouraged by Pakistan’s current military offensive in Waziristan, but the lasting result of this effort is still unclear. Nor does the Pakistan military action address the role of the Quetta Shura, which has the most influence over the insurgency in southern Taliban strongholds, or the Haqqani network, the most lethal killer of allied troops and Afghan civilians. Until this sanctuary problem is fully addressed, the gains from sending additional forces may be fleeting.
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