US envoy opposes Afghan troop increase

Author: Associated Press

Ambassador Karl Eikenberry resigned his Army commission to take the job as US
ambassador in Kabul earlier this year, and his is an influential voice among
those advising President Barack Obama on Afghanistan.

Mr Eikenberry sent multiple classified cables to Washington over the past week
that question the wisdom of adding forces when the Afghan political
situation is unstable and uncertain, said an official familiar with the
cables.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal
administration deliberations and the classified documents.

Cables are diplomatic messages that may or may not be classified and carry
greater heft than other forms of communication such as email.

Mr Eikenberry made the point that the administration should step cautiously in
planning for any troop buildup while there are still so many questions
surrounding Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the official said.

Mr Eikenberry is the front line US official dealing with President Karzai, the
US-backed leader whose administration was stained by corruption and
mismanagement.

It was a visiting senior senator, Democrat John Kerry, who was instrumental in
persuading Mr Karzai last month to accept the findings of a UN panel that
his re-election vote in August was too marred by fraud to stand.

Mr Karzai agreed to a second round of voting but was elevated to a second term
as president without a runoff election when his challenger dropped out.

Since then, US officials have been alarmed at some of Mr Karzai’s remarks and
the lack, so far, of meaningful steps to clean house.

Mr Eikenberry’s objections were a wild card in the midst of what had appeared
to be the final days of Mr Obama’s long decision-making process on how to
revamp US strategy in the eight-year war. Eikenberry has participated in
some of Mr Obama’s war council sessions over the past several weeks.

A senior US official told The Associated Press that Mr Obama rejected all four
options presented to him at what had been expected to be the last of those
sessions yesterday.

Those options started from the premise that some addition of US forces is
necessary, and included ways that Obama could meet or nearly meet war
commander Gen Stanley McChrystal’s preference for about 40,000 additional
troops.

It is not clear whether Mr Eikenberry’s objections played a part in Mr Obama’s
decision not to accept any of the choices prepared by military planners
yesterday.

At his Senate confirmation hearing in March, Mr Eikenberry underscored what he
called the urgency of the requirement to turn around the war effort, which
has evolved into a stalemate in key parts of Afghanistan as the Taliban-led
insurgency has gained clout.

“Time is of the essence,” Mr Eikenberry said. “There will be no substitute for
more resources and sacrifice.”

He said Europeans, for example, should be expected to provide more mentors for
Afghan police trainees. Another key to success, he said, is getting more
civilian experts such as agriculture specialists and justice experts who can
help reduce Afghanistan’s dependence on the illicit narcotics trade.

Mr Eikenberry was the top US military commander in Afghanistan for two years
before moving to Brussels to be deputy chairman of Nato’s military committee
in 2007. He had served one previous tour in Afghanistan.

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