Accessibility links

U.S. Afghan Envoy Expresses Doubts About Possible U.S. Troop Surge


U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry was the commander of Combined Forces in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry was the commander of Combined Forces in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007.

(RFE/RL) -- Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Kabul, reportedly has raised serious concerns to President Barack Obama about increasing the number of U.S troops in Afghanistan.

According to a report today in "The Washington Post" newspaper, Eikenberry sent two memos last week to the White House which question requests by U.S. military commanders for more troops.

Senior U.S. officials say both of Eikenberry's memos express deep reservations about the erratic behavior of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and about rampant corruption within the Afghan government.

Eikenberry, a retired lieutenant general, has years of first-hand military experience in Afghanistan. He was the commander of Combined Forces in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007. He also served during 2002 and 2003 as the U.S. security coordinator and as the chief of the Office of Military Cooperation in Afghanistan.

Obama, who has been deliberating for weeks with his national security advisers about how to defeat Taliban militants in Afghanistan, reportedly has been presented with four different strategy options.

The option with the lowest number of deployments would send an additional 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Most would be designated as trainers for Afghan security forces. The three other options are said to call for deployments of an additional 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 U.S. soldiers. Those options envision an expanded combat role for U.S. forces in provincial areas where the Taliban holds sway.

Met With Top Aides

The White House says Obama is still weeks away from making a decision, and that he will continue mulling over the options during a nine-day trip to Asia that begins today.

On November 11, in his eighth White House meeting with top aides about Afghanistan, Obama reportedly pushed for revisions to all four strategy options. The focus of all those revisions was the question of how long it will take to see results and how soon U.S. troops would be able to hand over security duties to Afghan forces.

Obama, who has been deliberating for weeks with his national security advisers about how to defeat Taliban militants in Afghanistan, reportedly has been presented with four different strategy options.
The White House meeting included U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, U.S. Central Command chief General David Petraeus, and U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, participated via teleconference. In September, McChrystal sent an assessment to Obama's national security team warning that without more forces and the rapid implementation of a genuine counterinsurgency strategy, defeat was likely.

McChrystal's assessment said "failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum" during the next 12 months would risk conditions in which defeating the insurgency is no longer possible. He stressed that Afghanistan's own security forces need to be bolstered as soon as possible.

McChrystal also warned that the Afghan government was riddled with corruption and that international forces are undermined by tactics that are alienating Afghan civilians.

'Maintain Confidence'

Arnold Fields, the U.S. special inspector-general for Afghanistan reconstruction, tells RFE/RL that the corruption issue is important not just for the issue of troop deployments to Afghanistan but also for the disbursement of reconstruction aid from international donors.

"We need to maintain confidence among those who are providing the funding for this reconstruction effort -- the United States about $40 billion [and] the collective international community about $63 billion," Fields says.

"So in order for that confidence and those funds to continue to flow into Afghanistan, the donors need to be confident that those monies are, in fact, being used for the purposes for which the were made available."

Fields, a former major general in the U.S. Marine Corps, says he hasn't given up hope on Karzai's government.

"Let me reiterate that the corruption issue is a significant one. But I also acknowledge that it is one that has been recognized by the government of Afghanistan," Fields says.

"During the three meetings that I have been privileged to have with President Karzai, in each of those meetings he has mentioned the issue of corruption and he has made a request of my office...In so doing, [he has made] a request from the United States of America for assistance in dealing with the corruption issue."

Reports from Washington say Obama seems intent on putting more pressure on Karzai, whose credibility is in doubt after his fraud-tainted reelection.

Whichever strategy option Obama chooses, he is expected to impose further demands on the Afghan government to ensure that Afghan security forces are strengthened. That would allow a timeline to be established for transferring security duties to Afghan forces.
XS
SM
MD
LG