Are Afghanistan Leaks on Purpose?

President Barack Obama has been given, if published reports are true, four ways forward to deal with his most vexing foreign policy problem, Afghanistan. He’s chosen none, not even the one most thought he would, a surge of about 40,000 new troops. That’s the one promoted by the chief military commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal. We know this because his recommendation was leaked to the Washington Post.

Now comes word that the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, has a different view.

Karl Eikenberry

Karl Eikenberry

He’s nervous about sending thousands of US troops into harm’s way on behalf of a government many see as hopelessly corrupt and marginally competent. That would be the administration of Hamid Karzai, who will be inaugurated for a second term shortly. Of course, we know this because two cables from Ambassador Eikenberry to President Obama were leaked to (guess who?) the Washington Post.

At the root of all this is Karzai’s reported anger at US pressure to acknowledge his first round majority in the last election was fraudulent. Now that Eikenberry’s sentiments have been made public, expect the Afghan president’s position to harden as well. This begs the question, however, who’s doing all this leaking? Trying to figure this out had become a parlor game in DC. In the case of Gen. McChrystal, speculation centered on hawks in the Pentagon.

If President Obama was to make good on his pledge to follow the dictates of the military on the ground, leaking McChrystal’s report made perfect sense. But who leaked the Eikenberry cables, which some now say may have played a role in Obama’s decision not to accept any of the four options he was given? There’s been some speculation the leak may have come directly from the White House, from the President’s inner circle. That would be without the President’s knowledge, I think. It’s happened before, in the recent past.

On Thursday President Obama told soldiers at an Alaskan Air Force base that any troops sent in harms way will have a clear strategy and mission. But there’s still the thorny question of mission and strategy in Afghanistan. There seems to be a consensus that simply bringing the troops home is not an option. That, the thinking goes, would leave Karzai’s ill equipped military to the tender mercies of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. It might also create huge problems for Afghanistan’s neighbor and nominal US ally Pakistan. Yet there is still that desire to end US involvement in this almost nine year conflict, and bring the country’s fighting men and women home. That’s what a growing number of Americans want.

That would mean admitting there is no clear and definable mission for the US in Afghanistan. It would also be a political firestorm for President Obama. But in the end it would save American lives, lives that could well be lost in pursuit of an unattainable goal.

What to do about Afghanistan? That’s way above my pay grade. And what about the leaks? You tell me.

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2 thoughts on “Are Afghanistan Leaks on Purpose?”

  1. What to do about Afghanistan? Talk with, read Dennis Kucinich and others. Get an exit plan and get out NOW. We, the ordinary people, and you, Mr. Riley of the media, do not have to draw up the exit plans. As Kucinich pointed out when he had worked hard to block funding for escalation/continuation in Iraq, the military can remove its personnel in a few months. They got the folks and supplies there and they can fly the planes back to the US and the other NATO countries (who have few military there). As others have said, the plan does not call for EXIT, just “how many” more to send into the meat grinder, which is killing civilians as we word-it.

  2. Well, I have a feeling that any other president would immediately fire the leakers.
    Obama seems to be using something rare in DC….logic and reason!
    He may need these men, no matter what he decides.

    Of course we are going to declare victory and leave, that’s a given.
    The devil is in the details.
    How and when?
    What is to be left behind?
    Democracy?
    Good luck with that!
    .-= sekanblogger´s last blog ..GO ASK ALICE ….when she’s ten feet tall =-.

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