THE PLANK NOVEMBER 12, 2009
What to make of the news that the U.S. Ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, is arguing against an increase in troops because of his doubts about Karzai? Eikenberry is presumably in a better position than any other American official to assess Karzai's government. And if you take it as a given that a successful COIN approach depends on a credible Afghan partner, his doubts have to carry a lot of weight.
Especially since it seems that McChrystal hasn't given the matter that much thought. Remember this bit from Dexter Filkins's NYT Mag October profile of the General:
But increasingly, McChrystal, as well as President Obama and the American people, are being forced to confront the possibility that they will be stuck fighting and dying and paying for a government that is widely viewed as illegitimate.
When I asked McChrystal about this, it was the one issue that he seemed not to have thought through. What if the Afghan people see their own government as illegitimate? How would you fight for something like that?
“Then we are going to have to avoid looking like we are part of the illegitimacy,” the general said. “That is the key thing.”
Has McChrystal given it more thought since that interview (which was presumably a couple months ago)? And does he have enough knowledge about what Karzai's government can and can't do that he can make a persuasive counter-argument to Eikenberry's?