Posts Tagged ‘Eikenberry’

Urgent Note to Obama and Petraeus: Reread the Eikenberry Cables, Avoid Reasoning from Conclusions, and Adjust Course

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

The replacement of General Stanley McChrystal by General David Petraeus signals an important change in the military leadership in Afghanistan. However, with commentators suggesting that Petraeus will be the new American “proconsul” in Afghanistan, it is far from clear that President Obama is moving to redress the serious imbalance in his team’s combined civilian and military approach and strategy in Afghanistan.

To date, undue weight has been given to military solutions and military considerations. Comments from White House officials on background suggest problems on the civilian side of the equation, with thought being given to replacing Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

It is a disservice to President Obama and to these men, who have given years of distinguished service to the nation, to paint them as clinging to their jobs.

That aside, why Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has not defended the State Department, and her own perogative to choose State’s team for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is an open question.

She appears to be out of the White House loop on Afghanistan policy. Whenever she does become visibly involved, as she did during last year’s reexamination of our Afghanistan strategy, she seems to agree not with her ambassadors but with the Pentagon, every step of the way.

It is a serious miskake for White House officials, themselves lacking deep foreign policy expertise or experience on the ground in Afghanistan, to personalize differences of policy by referring to “Eikenberry” or “Holbrooke”. The latter represent the expertise of the State Department, including the views of senior diplomats stationed in or with experience in the region.

It is their views, the views of the professional diplomats in the State Department, which require a new and fresh hearing.

In particular, Ambassador Eikenberry’s cables last November laid out the stark realities in Afghanistan. These realities have been forcefully confirmed since then by developments on the ground.

With the confirmation of Petraeus, it is more urgent than ever that the policies that have failed in the last nine months be reexamined with a fresh eye. In particular, the military’s current penchant for reasoning from conclusions (e.g., because a competent government, military and national police force must come into existence for our strategy to succeed, they will…) must be corrected and avoided.

Eikenberry’s cables are worth rereading now. The following article contains links to them.

***

“Eikenberry Memos Place Spotlight on U.S. Dilemmas in Afghanistan,” The Trenchant Observer, March 27, 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.

See also The Trenchant Observer, “Commentary on Eikenberry Cables, Intelligence on Afghanistan,”
January 28th, 2010

The Trenchant Observer

www.trenchantobserver.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv
E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com

Comments and debate are invited.

LUTTE POUR LA SURVIE de Karzaï en Afghanistan: l’ampleur réelle de la fraude électorale, les chances d’Abdullah, et la réponse de Washington

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

L’OBSERVATEUR INCISIF

Publié le 24 octobre, 2009
Traduit de l’anglais du 16 octobre, 2009

***

Si la Commission des plaintes électorales en Afghanistan est susceptible de décider que Karzai a remporté 47% des bulletins de vote et Abdullah a gagné 28% au premier tour des élections le 20 août, pourquoi aurait Karzaï tant lutté pour éviter un second tour?

Serait-ce que l’ECC a utilisé un échantillonnage statistique très limmité des résultats des élections du 20 août, qui a conduit a l’éxamen des bureaux de vote qui représentent seulement les cas les plus flagrants de fraude, ainsi laissant sous-estimer largement l’étendue réelle de la fraude, et par conséquent la possibilité de que Karzaï peuve
effectivement être battu par Abdullah dans un second tour?

Si cela était vrai, cela expliquerait l’opposition farouche de Karzaï à la tenue d’un second tour de scrutin, car un run-off pourrait effectivement donner une majorité de voix et la présidence à Abdullah, qui aboutirait à une remise arrachant du pouvoir, avec la perte concomitante d’emplois, d’influence et de favoritisme pour Karzaï et ses partisans.

Comment les États-Unis, l’OTAN et l’Organisation des Nations Unies réagissent pour gérer la crise qui éclatera dans le cas où Kazaï rechignerait d’acccepter les conclusions de la ECC aura un impact décisif sur la légitimité du prochain gouvernement. Cette semaine, la personne nommée à l’ECC par Karzaï a démissionné, affirmant d’abusives pressions étrangères contre la Commission. Les déclarations de l’Ambassadeur Áfghran aux États-Unis, en disant q’un deuxième tour était probable, aurait été interprété par plusieurs comme un signe de que Karzaï accepterait un second tour. Aujourd’hui, pourtant, des déclarations faites par les autorités de Kaboul suggèrent que la réponse de M. Karzaï est encore dans l’air.

La stratégie des Etats-Unis paraît être cela de pressioner à Abdullah pour accepter un accord pour se joindre à un gouvernement de coalition dans lequel Karzaï restera à la barre. Sinon, pourquoi serait-il nécessaire pour les membres de l’OTAN de déclarer comme ils l’ont fait récemment qu’ils croyaient Karzaï serait le gagnant dans un second tour, et pourquoi s’auraiat-elle sentie le Secrétaire d’État Clinton le besoin de affirmer, vendredi, que Karzaï serait le probable gagnant dans un second tour? Les États-Unis ont apparemment fait pression sur Abdullah dès les premiers jours après les élections du 20 aoút. Les autorités américaines n’ont guère agi dans le noir, parce que les services de renseignements américaines auraient sûrement une idée plus précise de l’ampleur de la fraude que même celle des chiffres rapportés par l’ECC, ceux qui devraient être publiés dans quelques jours.

Par ailleurs, à quoi faire se trouve-t-il l’ancien ambassadeur américain Zalmay Khalilzad à Kaboul? L’ambassadeur américain à Kaboul de 2003-2005, M. Khalilzad a été candidat pour un poste conjuré de «Premier ministre» de l’Afghanistan sous Karzaï dans la période précédant les élections, une possibilité qui s’est prouvée illusoire. Est-ce qu’il agit de sa propre entreprise? S’il agit pour l’administration Obama, il serait intéressant de connaître sa tâche. Est-ce pour tirer le fer hors de l’incendie pour Karzaï, ou quelque chose d’autre? Espérons qu’il y ait plus à lui que l’improvisation désespérée, et il faut espérer de même qu’il reflète quelque chose en plus que le désarroi politique américaine à Washington lors d’une phase très critique dans nos relations avec l’Afghanistan.

Pourquoi la Presse n’a-t-elle vraiment investigué jusqu’au fond dans tout cela, au lieu de résumer simplement les opinions de différents responsables des États-Unis et de l’OTAN, avec les observations d’un ou d’un autre expert universitaire jetées la dedans pour faire bonne mesure?

Dans un bulletin d’informations à la télévision la semaine dernière, un homme de la rue à Kaboul a fait observer que l’OTAN était contre Abdullah, de sorte que celui ne pouvait pas gagner la présidence. Sa déclaration a sonné vraie. De telles déclarations devront être inquiétantes pour ceux qui craignaient que les États-Unis peuvent être aperçus par les Afghans comme une force occupante et qui en tant veut imposer sa volonté sur le peuple de l’Afghanistan. N’est-il pas le temps maintenant pour une revision d’urgence de notre politique envers le gouvernement Karzaï, avec une vue vers l’action décisive dans les prochains jours? Au cours la crise des missiles de Cuba en 1962, il est utile de rappeler, le Président John F. Kennedy n’était pas engagé dans un examen des politiques de grand envergure, mais plutôt utilisait son Comité exécutif pour l’aider à décider comment faire face à de navires soviétiques portant de missiles chargés qui, dans un premier moment descendaient sur Cuba, et dans un second puis directement sur les navires américains bloquent leur chemin.

L’examen de la politique en Afghanistan conduit par le président Obama est précieux et doit continuer, mais le président a besoin de se concentrer maintenant sur les navires qui descendent sur nous et l’Afghanistan dans les prochains jours.

The Trenchant Observer
(Le Observateur Incisif)

www.trenchantobserver.com
Suivre sur www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv
E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com

Les commentaires et les débats sont invités.

KARZAI’S FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL IN AFGHANISTAN—THE REAL EXTENT OF THE ELECTORAL FRAUD, ABDULLAH’S CHANCES, AND WASHINGTON’S RESPONSE

Friday, October 16th, 2009

If the Electoral Complaints Commission in Afghanistan is likely to decide that Karzai won 47% of the ballots and Abdullah won 28% in the first round elections on August 20, why is Karzai fighting so hard to avoid a second round?

Could it be that the ECC’s very limited statistical sampling of the August 20 election results–examining only polling stations representing the most egregious cases of fraud–vastly understates the real extent of the fraud, and hence the likelihood that Karzai can actually beat Abdullah in a second round?

If this were true, it would explain Karzai’s fierce opposition to holding a second round of voting, because a run-off could actually give a majority of votes and the Presidency to Abdullah. That would produce a wrenching handover of power, and concomitant loss of jobs, influence, and patronage for Karzai and his supporters.

How the U.S., NATO and the United Nations manage the crisis which will erupt if Karzai balks at the ECC’s findings will have a fateful impact on the legitimacy of the next government. This week Karzai’s appointee on the ECC resigned, claiming improper foreign pressures on the Commission. Statements by Karzai’s Ambassador to the U.S. saying a second round was likely were interpreted as a sign Karzai would accept a second round. Yet later statements by officials in Kabul suggest that Karzai’s response is still up in the air.

The strategy of the U.S. seems to be to pressure Abdullah into an agreement to join a coalition government in which Karzai will remain at the helm. Otherwise, why would it be necessary for NATO members to declare as they did recently that they believed Karzai would be the winner in a second round, and why would Secretary of State Clinton feel moved to state, on Friday, that Karzai would be the likely winner in a runoff? The U.S. has apparently been pressuring Abdullah since days after the August 20 elections. U.S. officials have hardly been operating in the dark, for U.S. intelligence surely has a more accurate picture of the extent of the fraud than even the reported ECC figures, expected to be published within a day or two.

Moreover, what is former U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad doing in Kabul? U.S. Ambassador to Kabul from 2003-2005, Khalilzad was a candidate for a conjured-up position of “prime minister” of Afghanistan under Karzai in the run-up to the elections, a prospect which proved illusory. Is he acting on his own now? If he is acting for the Obama administration, it would be interesting to know his brief. Is it to pull the iron out of the fire for Karzai, or something else? Hopefully there is more to it than desperate improvisation, and hopefully it reflects something more than U.S. policy disarray in Washington at a highly critical juncture in our relations with Afghanistan.

Why isn’t the press digging into all of this, instead of simply summarizing the views of different U.S. and NATO officials, with those of an occasional academic thrown in for good measure?

In a television news report last week, a man on the street in Kabul observed that NATO was against Abdullah, so he couldn’t win the presidency. His statement had the ring of truth. Such statements should be disquieting to those concerned that the U.S. may be perceived by Afghans as an occupying force and as imposing its will on the people of Afghanistan. Isn’t it time now for an emergency revision in our policy towards the Karzai government, with a view toward decisive action in the coming days? During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, it is worth recalling, President John F. Kennedy was not engaged in a wide-ranging policy review, but rather using his Executive Committee to help him decide how to deal with missile-laden Soviet ships bearing down first on Cuba, and then directly on U.S. navy warships blocking their path.

President Obama’s policy review is valuable and should continue, but he needs to focus now on the ships bearing down on us and Afghanistan in the next few days.

The Trenchant Observer

www.trenchantobserver.com
follow on www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv
e-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com

Comments and debate are invited.