Posts Tagged ‘David Petreus’

Commentary on Eikenberry Cables, Intelligence on Afghanistan

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

A number of articles and comments are appearing which address the significance of the Eikenberry cables. Links to some of the most interesting will be provided here.

One important commentary, by a former intelligence official, points out the fact that President Obama had not ordered a National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan prior to reaching his decision on Afghanistan strategy and the “surge”. See Ray McGovern, “Obama Put Politics First on Afghanistan”, Counterpunch, January 28, 2010

The absence of a NIE is surprising in view of the Flynn report on the defects in U.S. military intelligence in that country. See Jon Boone, “US intelligence chief criticises spy failings in Afghanistan,” The Guardian (, January 5, 2010

The text of the Flynn report is highly interesting. See Major General Michael T. Flynn, Captain Matt Pottinger, Paul D. Batchelor, “Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan” (working paper), January 4, 2010

Many of the defects in U.S. military intelligence the Flynn report addresses had been noted over a year earlier. See Peter Beaumont, “Intelligence failures crippling fight against insurgents in Afghanistan, The Guardian, March 6, 2009.

The Trenchant Observer

Comments and debate are invited, in any language. If in a language other than English, please provide an English translation. A Google translation into English will be sufficient.

Eikenberry Memos Place Spotlight on U.S. Dilemmas in Afghanistan

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

On January 25 in a story by Eric Schmitt, the New York Times reported on and published the full text of memos written by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry on November 6 and November 9, 2009, detailing his reasons for opposing the counterinsurgency strategy and “surge” proposed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and the latter’s boss, CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petreus.

The cables strongly suggest that President Obama’s much-touted and drawn-out Afghanistan policy review in the fall did not fully address the validity of key assumptions upon which the McChrystal proposals were based, including 1) the assumption that Karzai and his government could become the kind of government partner needed for the strategy to succeed; and 2) the assumption that the Afghan army and police could be trained and built up quickly to take over and hold areas cleared by U.S. and NATO forces (including the additional 40,000 troops requested by McChrystal).

The fact that the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, himself a former commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, felt the policy review had been too narrowly focused on counterinsurgency doctrine and strategy, is in itself quite amazing.

Perhaps sensing that his views were on the verge of being eclipsed by the recommendations of Mr. Obama’s military advisors, Eikenberry in the second cable urged further study by a broader group to fully weigh considerations such as those raised in his cables–which he obviously felt were not being given due weight in the current review.

The memos confirm that the U.S. has a capable ambassador and diplomatic team in Kabul, who understand the broader picture of what is going on in Afghanistan.

But in the end, Mr. Obama did not follow the main thrust of Eikenberry’s arguments and advice. The President has gained time, perhaps, in domestic political terms, and perhaps also to see if the new strategy of protecting populations can reverse the momentum of the Taliban.

Reading these cables, however, and Eikenberry’s cogent descriptions of what sound like insuperable obstacles to be overcome, it is difficult to discern grounds for optimism regarding the success of the current strategy.

The Trenchant Observer

Comments and debate are invited, in any language. If in a language other than English, please provide an English translation, in order to reach the broadest possible audience. A Google translation into English will be sufficient.