The Washington Post today carries a story on the appointment of a replacement for Richard Holbrooke as the person responsible for civilian activity in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the mid-point of the article is this paragraph:
“But virtually the entire U.S. civilian and military leadership in Afghanistan is expected to leave in the coming months, including Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and the embassy’s other four most senior officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the U.S.-led international coalition, and Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who runs day-to-day military operations there.”
It doesn’t require a managerial genius to know that changing all the key players at approximately the same time will change things fundamentally and, unpredictably. Given the new person in Holbrooke’s position and all these changes, don’t expect less than, at best, months of confusion as personalities adjust and learn about each other and the personalities of Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s leaders. Eventually it may all settle out nicely but it will take time that is at a premium if any significant change in the American commitment in Afghanistan is to take place in August, as previously announced.
All of these key people deserve, and probably crave, relief from their current roles. They should be given it but most of that relief should come after August’s changes and not before. There may be some special cases but surely all this turnover at this time is not just risky, it is foolish.