Obama: where are the off-ramps from the Afghan highway?
US ambassador Karl Eikenberry has voiced his reservations about adding US troops to the levels already in the country, apparently because of doubts about Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai’s reliability and the corruption in his government. This puts him in sharp disagreement with US commander Gen. McChrystal, whose troop and strategic recommendations for up to 40,000 more troops are being debated by the president and his advisors. (Eikenberry previously served as US commander in Afghanistan.) Obama and his advisers are considering troop options ranging from the addition of 10,000 -- to up to 40,000 new troops. Obama spoke with Eikenberry and sources say Obama wanted to know Eikenberry’s views on how long before results could lead to draw-downs of US troops. Or, as a source said, “He wants to know where the off-ramps are.” The ambassador has strongly advocated adding more civilian personnel to the US effort in Afghanistan, especially to help wean Afghan farmers away from a dependence on opium poppy production. Afghanistan is probably the world’s primary source for raw opium. Eikenberry’s engagement with the Afghan election earlier gained Karzai’s anger with what Karzai saw as an inappropriate intrusion into domestic politics. For much more on this evolving story, read the NYTimes and the Washington Post