In the ongoing leak war surrounding Obama’s decision on a new or new-new Afghanistan strategy, the McChrystal team apparently has competition. Last night, we learned of the leak of a cable from US Ambassador to Afghanistan Eikenberry which goes even further than his “memo to officials leading the civilian effort in Afghanistan” which David Dayen at FDL News Desk reported earlier in the day. In that memo, Eikenberry warns about the “lack of a credible government partner.” In what appears to be a second cable to the White House:
He said it was “not a good idea” to send more troops, the BBC has been told.
The cable arrived days before Mr Obama held a crucial strategy session – to discuss the question of whether to send tens of thousands more troops to confront and push back the Taliban.
The cable appears to be a dramatic and last-minute intervention by the ambassador, BBC Washington correspondent Adam Brookes reports.
The BBC goes on to report that:
Gen McChrystal was “fuming” about Mr Eikenberry’s intervention, sources said.
Following this news, the AP reported that Obama is not buying any of the current Afghanistan options.
It’s impossible to parse the various leaks with any certainty as various factions attempt to influence and spin the current deliberations – and perhaps send up a few trial balloons. Still, after the McChrystal/DoD campaign for major troop increases, these new reports of opposition to McChrystal’s troop requests are a welcome shift – if they represent a genuine rethinking of Afghanistan by Obama and perhaps an increasingly influential role for less hawkish voices in contrast to the pro-McChrystal stance of Clinton, Gates and Mullen.
It’s also unclear whether Obama’s displeasure with the McChrystal options actually represents an unwillingness to send more troops or simply a desire for a different escalation timeline or additional conditions on the Karzai government, but Eikenberry’s cable and its leak suggests a significant shift in policy may be developing.
Eikenberry, who served as the top US commander in Afghanistan during the last administration is reported by the New York Times to have some interesting history with McChrystal:
General Eikenberry crossed paths with General McChrystal during his second tour in Afghanistan, when General McChrystal led the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, which conducted clandestine operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
I’m left wondering if McChrystal may have overplayed his hand.