Tales from the Trail

What rift? Eikenberry, McChrystal take vows of unity

December 8, 2009

They smiled at each other and publicly said “I do.”

USAGeneral Stanley McChrystal and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, widely reported to have had a falling-out over sending  30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, on Tuesday pledged their support for President Barack Obama’s strategy and for each other.

The congressional hearing was on the Afghan war, but it had moments that almost seemed borrowed from a wedding ceremony.

“Do you support the president’s plan (for Afghanistan) in each of its elements?” asked Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin.

“I do, Mr. Chairman,” responded Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

Levin turned to General McChrystal, the U.S. battlefield commander. “General, do you fully agree with the July 2011 date which the president directed as the start of reduction of some U.S. forces?”

“Mr. Chairman, I do…” McChrystal said.

Recently leaked documents had led many lawmakers to suspect McChrystal might think 30,000 more U.S. troops were too few to defeat the Taliban; and that Eikenberry believed more troops should go only if the Afghan government cleaned up its act and fought corruption.

Despite their reported differences the two men have a great deal in common. Eikenberry is also a former U.S. military commander in Afghanistan. He retired with the rank of Lieutenant General, and like McChrystal is a graduate of West Point.

Both men were at pains to stress that they supported the decision Obama announced last week at West Point, and referred to each other as longtime friends.

“We work together literally every day — we have dinner together. That is an absolute misperception,” McChrystal said.

“I do share his (McChrystal’s) analysis,” Eikenberry said.

Sounds like they’ve made up…

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Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (McChrystal and Eikenberry at congressional hearing)

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