Leaked Cables Raise Questions on Kabul-Washington Tension

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The leak of two cables from U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry to President Obama have raised concerns over the official relationship between the U.S. and Afghan governments. Eikenberry's cables cite the corruption and weakness of Afghan President Hamid Karzai as a top concern and warn Obama against sending more troops to Afghanistan. Commentators are raising two important questions: Why were the cables leaked and what will this mean for our already troubled relationship with Karzai?

  • Did Eikenberry Leak Them?  Spencer Ackerman reports sources who point to a rivalry between Eikenberry and General Stanley McChrystal, the top military commander in Afghanistan. "The prevailing theory is that 'he leaked his own cables' because 'he has a beef with McChrystal,' the staffer said. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Eikenberry’s successor as NATO commander in Afghanistan, has requested an increase in troops," Ackerman writes. "Eikenberry’s high-profile dissent on a troop increase is likely to aggravate tensions with his former command. Over the summer, McChrystal and Eikenberry worked out a plan for civilian-military cooperation in Afghanistan that 'aligns [U.S.] efforts on a single objective: the people of Afghanistan.'"
  • Knee-Capping of Eikenberry  Andrew Exum anticipates that the leaked cables will strain the very important U.S.-Afghan diplomatic relationship. "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."
  • Making Up With Karzai  Spencer Ackerman evaluates the troubled Karzai-Eikenberry relationship. "[I]n late 2006, on the heels of the surge, [U.S. National Security Adviser] Steve Hadley wrote a rather scathing vote of no confidence in [Iraqi President] Nouri al-Maliki that made its way to the press. That didn't stop Maliki from cooperating with the Bush administration. That said, I can see all the ways in which this is different from that. Eikenberry is the guy who has to deal with Karzai’s people every day, a much different bureaucratic arrangement from national-security-adviser Hadley. And Karzai knows — really, really knows — that the Obama administration has no confidence in him and is just stuck. Eikenberry needs, to put it bluntly, to unfuck this relationship."
  • An Out For Obama  The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan thinks, deliberate or no, the leaked cables could help Obama withdraw. "I suspect Eikenberry has given Obama the opening he needs to leave Afghanistan and refuse to commit more young Americans to the defense of a corrupt government and the prosecution of an unending war that no longer serves a core national interest for the US. If Obama does that, it will take enormous courage. It will reveal a strength of character and judgment that America and the world now need."
  • Another Eikenberry Fumble  Foreign Policy's Thomas Ricks is no fan of Eikenberry's work. "How to screw up things royally: So U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan (nee General) Eikenberry doesn't want to give Afghan President Karzai a blank check? No one does. But anyone paying attention knows that Eikenberry and Karzai have been like oil and water since Eikenberry was the top American general in Afghanistan. I think it was a bad move to put him in there as our top diplomat."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.