THE PLANK NOVEMBER 13, 2009
From whence came the leak of two cables from the US Ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, warning against an escalation in Afghanistan? It's not clear, though most of the speculation assumes that Eikenberry himself publicized it to shift the public debate away from how many more troops to send to whether to send more troops at all. Some reporting indicates White House anger [Update: I'm told the item linked at left has been retracted] over the leak, directed at Eikenberry himself. But Marc Ambinder has an intriguing notion: What if the White House leaked the memo?
You could see it a few ways. One is that opponents of a buildup, fearing that Obama is leaning toward a bigger influx of troops per the advice of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, leaked this as an effort to strengthen their hands. My Washington-trained gut says it's the opposite, a trial balloon because Obama will go with a smaller buildup, and putting Eikenberry's concerns out there serves as a counterweight to McChrystal. It, in effect say, "Look I have smart generals who don't want a buildup.
Laura Rozen had more on this yesterday. That said, this wouldn't be the first nettlesome Eikenberry cable to hit the pages of the Washington Post. In August, the paper reported on a missive that Eikenberry sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Note that the August story carried was written by two reporters who also co-bylined yesterday's story.)
In a cable sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry said an additional $2.5 billion in nonmilitary spending will be needed for 2010, about 60 percent more than the amount President Obama has requested from Congress. The increase is needed "if we are to show progress in the next 14 months," Eikenberry wrote in the cable, according to sources who have seen it.
That first cable also gives you an clear idea of where the man is coming from. He believes what we need is a civilian surge, not a military one. To which some counterinsurgency proponents will argue that civilian good works generally require security that only the military can provide.
Update: And I see that while I was closing a print piece yesterday, Jason blogged something similar and I missed it. Damn you, Zengerle!