Eikenberry: ‘I Can Say Without Equivocation That I Fully Support This Approach’

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009 at 10:15 am

And here’s the once skeptical ambassador to Afghanistan. “I believe the course the president outline does offer the best path to stabilize Afghanistan and ensure that al-Qaeda can no longer gain a foothold to plan new attacks against us,” said Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, one of McChrystal’s predecessors in military command in Afghanistan. “I can say without equivocation that I fully support this approach.”

He returned McChrystal’s compliment, “a professional colleague and friend of many years.” They’re “united in a joint effort.” So much for chatter about their icy relationship. “We could not accomplish our objectives without this kind of cooperation,” Eikenberry said.

The extended surge “is absolutely critical to regaining the initiative.” So much for Eikenberry’s cables expressing misgivings about that increase until the Afghans express greater commitments to effective and honest government. Why’s that? “By focusing on ministries that deliver essential services and security, we can accelerate the building of the Afghan government to one that is sufficiently visible, effective and accountable,” Eikenberry said, echoing what Brig. Gen. John Nicholson said yesterday. “Underpinning all these efforts is the need to combat corruption and promote the rule of law.” Eikenberry praised Hamid Karzai’s inaugural address promise of reform and autonomy.

“The narcotics problem will never have a solution without economic development,” he said, and while the administration will focus on “demand reduction” and detaining traffickers, development work, especially agriculture, will contribute to reducing the demand for the insurgency among the population. “We’re concentrating on what is essential and what is obtainable,” Eikenberry assured lawmakers.

“Two risks” he said he shares with McChrystal: in spite of “everything we do, Afghanistan may struggle to take over the task of governance and security on a timely basis.” The other is about Pakistan. “Unless there is more progress in eliminating the sanctuaries used by the Afghan Taliban and their associates inside of Pakistan,” Eikenberry said, the strategy will fall short.

But. “For the first time in my three tours in Afghanistan, all of the elements of our national power are being deployed, with the full support of the president. … Our mission was underresourced for years, but it is now one of our government’s highest priorities.” He said that he will, however, need more civilian resources for Afghanistan, much as Paul Jones, deputy to Richard Holbrooke, said yesterday.

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