Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Amb. Karl Eikenberry haven't agreed on U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, but they'll be making the rounds together on the Hill this week nonetheless, appearing before congressional committees and explaining President Obama's new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, to which they are both now bound, despite previous disagreements, as employees of the administration.
The two will testify before the House and Senate Armed Services committees Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday, and House Foreign Affairs on Thursday, The Hill's Roxana Tiron reports, with McChrystal also giving a closed-door briefing to House Defense appropriators.
It could be a bit uncomfortable. In the public's view, Eikenberry and McChrystal became opposite poles in the administration's publicized internal debate over Afghanistan.
Each saw his thoughts on the matter leaked in high profile--McChrystal, when Bob Woodward obtained his report to the president that warned of "mission failure" without more troops; Eikenberry, more recently when memos advising against a troop buildup were described to The Washington Post. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, himself is the former top American commander in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, while McChrystal's promotion was supposed to bring new, post-Iraq-surge paradigms to the table.
Neither got what he wanted, completely: McChrystal had proposed 40,000 troops as a median number,
but he only got 30,000 [NOTE: McChrystal only got 30,000 U.S. troops, but NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is trying for 10,000 more, 7,000 of which have already been pledged from NATO countries], and those came with an announcement of when the U.S. would start to withdraw. Eikenberry wanted to address the Afghan government's corruption before sending more troops.
McChrystal has more star power in this debate, and his comprehensive report to Obama became the focal point of Afghanistan debate in America--but Eikenberry, as a surge skeptic, will probably draw a good deal of attention from liberals who want him to expound on the reservations he expressed in those leaked cables.
Liberals on Capitol Hill were outspoken about their own reservations with the new plan when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates appeared to discuss the plan last week; it's likely they'll want to hear more about Eikenberry's opposition to it, as someone who was part of the administration's internal discussion. And that could prove a bit challenging, as Eikenberry will be there as a representative of the administration, expected to defend the plan before lawmakers.
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