Ambassador Speaking Sense On Line 1


Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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7 Responses

    • Avatar Chris Dierkes says:

      I agree with that article. Karzai is basically in charge of Kabul, maybe. And of course the country is going to be “corrupt” by Western definitions. It’s called putting food any way you can on your family’s plate. But if send more troops it’s predicated on winning some territory from insurgents and then handing it over to some functioning state. It just isn’t going to happen and it’s hardly all the fault of Karzai. It’s that the whole concept of some strong central state in Afghanistan is an aberration in their history. I feel like the COIN fans are just basically doing a too easy 1:1 correlation with Iraq.

      Apparently President Obama doesn’t like the current lay of the Afghanistan options land. He’s wondering how and when you transition to the gov’t which is a good question for him to be asking—since basically everyone pro-Afghan surge in the military is not asking that question but simply assuming by some miracle the Afghan government turns around. Or that Karzai is actually in charge of the place (which he isn’t and isn’t going to be probably ever).Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I still wonder how necessary it is that the entity to which we hand off a de-Talibanized (to our satisfaction) Afghanistan, or a reconciliation deal, be either a centralized state in the sense of having authority over or legitimacy with the Afghan population, or that it be particularly strong in that respect. It seems to me we just need some Kabul-based entity to maintain nominal command-and-control over the forces we develop in the next few years (which must be done at the local level and must have as a prime objective maintaining allegiances with local/tribal structures) that we hope will continue to contain Taliban power after we draw down. But that notion is contrary to COIN doctrine.

        Obama is right to be asking about the exit strategy, or about “where the off-ramps are,” as a quote in one of this new spate of reports puts it, but at the same time, I hope the president isn’t going in deeper here thinking he’ll be able to get out again quickly. That’s as false in this instance as it was in the 2006 Iraq debate. We’re still in Iraq and will remain there for years to come, and the same is true of Afghanistan.Report

  1. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:

    I think given that scenario, the best an Afghan surge is perhaps allow the US a face-saving exit about 2 years from now. Win some battles, maybe it calms down a little (though this is a big gamble given Afghan history), but then there is no real governmental followup, the Taliban hide over in Pakistan for awhile, we leave, and then some political equilibrium is reached. How I have no idea. What it looks like, ditto.

    But the question is ultimately a political one. I really doubt a surge plus trying to buy off Talibs plus trying to get people like Gulbuddin into a coalition government is going to work so long as there are NATO troops in the country. Maybe something like that happens after a Western exit. But eventually the country will come to its own political reality.

    It might be argued that we need to create some modicum of stability before that takes place (I’m open to that possibility), but we are not going to engineer a state for them, much less a nation. Much less a legitimate national leader through elections (esp. not Karzai). Even that still just delays the inevitable political reckoning that has to take place.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    This is super heavy. Going forward with Eikenberry and McChrystal is untenable. That’s I think what this is really about, what Eikenberry is really saying. (I don’t think he would endorse Chris’ dismissal of the possibility of bringing the gov’t around to a workable condition, though not to Chris’ standard of a ‘legitimate state’). Petraeus-Crocker synergy may be impossible replicate, but this thing crashes inside of a few months if the CIC & the Amb aren’t on the same page. One of them will have to go; this is Eikenberry laying the groundwork for an honorable departure. And totally upfront of him, as much harder as it makes Obama’s upcoming task.Report

    • Avatar Chris Dierkes says:


      This is a good point. Eikenberry has been NATO commander there and now ambassador and he is basically (fairly or unfairly) tied to the old strategy of Afghanistan—whatever exactly it was. So if the strategy is fundamentally going to change, then yeah they probably have to bring in a new ambassador. Bring back Zalmay? I don’t know who they have that would be up to the task. I don’t know what Eikenberry’s relationship with Holbrooke is–maybe some Holbrooke lackey gets put in?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I have no idea. If I were Obama (and I were decided in favor of McChrystal, which we have a shotgun-blast of reporting at this very minute suggesting is not the case), I would turn to my SecState, who from what I can glean supports the McChrystal plan in full, and say, “Find someone who knows the region and can work with the general.” To me, that would indicate Khalilzad over Holbrooke (I’m a big fan of Holbrooke as a dude, but he seems a bit washed up for field work at this point…), if it were between the two. But after eight years involved in the region now, I would just really hope we have a deeper bench than that. I would also be utterly unsurprised if the answer is, “We don’t.”

        I don’t think “Back to the Future with Zal” is the best branding to bring to a new approach, but in all honesty I think his skill set (including, I would venture, more authority than anyone else we have to push Karzai around some) may be about the closest that we have to what is called for here.