Friday, January 30, 2009

A very interesting choice for new US ambassador to Kabul

The man knows the place:
The Obama administration has picked Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, a former top military commander in Afghanistan, to be the next United States ambassador to Kabul, an administration official said Thursday.

Tapping a career Army officer who will soon retire from the service to fill one of the country’s most sensitive diplomatic jobs is a highly unusual choice.

But Afghanistan specialists say that General Eikenberry, who served in Afghanistan twice, including an 18-month command tour that ended in 2007, knows the players and issues there well. That is a valuable commodity in a year when the United States will send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan and the country will hold presidential elections.

The administration official spoke anonymously because the appointment had not been made public.

General Eikenberry has a track record for spotting problems in Afghanistan early. He sounded some of the first alarms about a resurgent Taliban and the need to keep the country from backsliding into anarchy.

He was also an early and vigorous champion of building up the Afghan Army to combat the Taliban, a top priority for the Obama administration. And the general repeatedly warned that the United States could not prevail in Afghanistan and defeat global terrorism without addressing the havens that fighters with Al Qaeda had established in neighboring Pakistan.

The appointment indicates that General Eikenberry has the backing of Richard C. Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan...
One hopes he'll get onto that "civilian surge" too (more here). The thought crosses the mind that Gen. (ret'd) Rick Hillier might be a good person for a certain job if we want keep being a major player in Afstan. But somehow I doubt the Conservative government would feel, er, comfortable to have the general back again and speaking his mind.


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