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Karl Eikenberry

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Karl Eikenberry

Lieutenant General
Karl W. Eikenberry
Ambassador Eikenberry at Stanford University in 2011
United States Ambassador to Afghanistan
In office
April 29, 2009 – July 25, 2011
President Barack Obama
Preceded by William Braucher Wood
Succeeded by Ryan Crocker
Personal details
Born 1951 (age 63–64)
Spouse(s) Ching Eikenberry[1]
Alma mater United States Military Academy (B.S.)
Harvard University (M.A.)
Stanford University (M.A.)
Military service
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Rank Lieutenant General
Battles/wars War in Afghanistan

Karl Winfrid Eikenberry (born 1951)[2] is a retired United States Army lieutenant general and former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. He is currently the William J. Perry Fellow in International Security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, a Shorenstein APARC Distinguished Fellow, and an affiliated faculty member of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law and The Europe Center at Stanford University. [3]

In addition to his work at Stanford, Eikenberry is on the board of the Asia Foundation, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, and Turquoise Mountain Foundation. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the Council of American Ambassadors and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Class of 2012).

Early life and education

Eikenberry was born in 1951 and graduated from Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1969[4] and then attended West Point, where he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant upon graduation in 1973.[5]

He received an M.A. in East Asian Studies from Harvard University, where he would later return as a National Security Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He also earned an M.A. in political science from Stanford University,[6] where he was also a Ph.D. candidate.[7] In addition, Eikenberry has studied in Hong Kong at the UK Ministry of Defence Chinese Language School, earning the Foreign Office's Interpreter’s Certificate for Mandarin Chinese, and Nanjing University, earning an advanced degree in Chinese history.[6]

Military career

With US Army Aviation CH-47 crew and Pakistan Army Liaison Officer in Pakistan when commanding the US-led coalition Kashmir earthquake disaster relief operations, September 2005.

In the Army, Eikenberry commanded the 2nd Battalion of the 87th Infantry Regiment (Light) in the 10th Mountain Division, and commanded and held staff positions in airborne, ranger, and mechanized infantry units in the United States, Korea, and Europe. He also served as an assistant Army attache in the American Embassy in the People's Republic of China, and then as division chief with the Strategy, Plans and Policy Directorate of the United States Department of the Army Staff in Washington, D.C.[7]

Eikenberry served two tours of duty in the war in Afghanistan.[8] His first tour in Afghanistan, from September 2002 to September 2003, he filled two positions—his primary duty was as the U.S. Security Coordinator for Afghanistan and the second position was the Chief of the Office of Military Cooperation-Afghanistan (OMC-A). As the Security Coordinator he worked closely with Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Pakistan Lakhdar Brahimi to forge a unified international effort to build a cohesive security sector.

Security sector reform (SSR) followed a lead-nation approach agreed upon in January 2002, in which the G8 nations would each lead a specific sector—the United States reformed the Afghan National Army; Germany, the Afghan Police; UK, counter-narcotics; Italy, judicial reform; and Japan and the United Nations took on the task of disarming, demobilizing, and reintegrating the militias.[9] In his role as Chief of the OMC-A he was the chief architect of the strategy that built and fielded the first Afghan Army Corps.

During his second tour he was Commander of the Combined Forces Command for 18 months, leaving in 2007 to become the Deputy Chairman of the NATO Military Committee.[6]


Visiting Afghan provincial elders as US ambassador in 2009

On January 29, 2009, the New York Times reported that President Barack Obama had chosen Eikenberry to be the next U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, replacing William Braucher Wood. The choice of a career army officer for the sensitive post was described by The Times as "highly unusual". On April 3, 2009, the Senate confirmed Eikenberry's nomination, and on April 29, 2009, he was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.[8] The official announcement of his nomination was made on March 11.[10] Following his confirmation as ambassador, he retired from the U.S. military with the rank of Lieutenant General on April 28, 2009.

Leak of classified cables

In November 2009, Eikenberry sent two classified cables to his superiors in which he assessed the proposed U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. A description of the content of the cables was leaked soon after. In January 2010, the New York Times obtained and published the cables,[11] which "show just how strongly the current ambassador feels about President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan government, the state of its military, and the chances that a troop buildup will actually hurt the war effort by making the Karzai government too dependent on the United States".[12] In June 2010, General McChrystal was described in a Rolling Stone profile as feeling blindsided by Eikenberry's statements in the leaked cables. On the other hand, Eikenberry is described elsewhere as being frank and vocal about his concerns about the Karzai government as being a reliable or unreliable partner for the United States in its efforts in Afghanistan.[13]

Academic career

After his position as ambassador in Afghanistan, Eikenberry became the Payne Distinguished Lecturer at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.[1] He is currently the William J. Perry Fellow in International Security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, a Shorenstein APARC Distinguished Fellow, and an affiliated faculty member of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law and The Europe Center.


  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (February 1988). "The Imjin War". Military Review 68 (2): 27–82. 
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (1994). "The campaigns of Cao Cao". Military Review 74 (8): 56–64. 
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (February 1995). Explaining and Influencing Chinese Arms Transfers. McNair Papers. Washington, D.C.: Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University. 
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (Summer 1996). "Take No Casualties". Parameters 26 (2): 109–118. 
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (November 2009). "Ambassador Eikenberry's Cables on U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan". New York Times. 
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (May 2012). "Stop Ignoring Taiwan". Foreign Policy. 
  • Eikenberry, Karl W., Hennessy,John L., Sheehan, James J., Kennedy, David M. and Perry, William J. (Spring 2012). "The Future of the American Military". American Academy of Arts & Sciences: Bulletin 65 (3). 
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (January 2013). "The Militarization of US Foreign Policy". American Foreign Policy Interests: The Journal of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy 35: 1–8. 
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. and Kennedy, David M. (May 26, 2013). "Americans and Their Military, Drifting Apart". New York Times. 
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (September 2013). "The Limits of Counterinsurgency Doctrine in Afghanistan". Foreign Affairs. 
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (December 2013). "Reassessing The All-Volunteer Force". The Washington Quarterly 36: 7–24. 
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (June 2014). "The American Calculus of Military Intervention". Survival: Global Politics and Strategy (3 ed.) 56: 264–271. 
  • Fukuyama, Francis and Eikenberry, Karl W. (September 2014). "Friendless Obama needs Middle Eastern allies of convenience". Financial Times. 
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (2014). "Thucydides Trap". American Review: Global Perspectives on America. 

Awards and decorations

Personal decorations and badges

Eikenberry's personal decorations include:[6]
U.S. military decorations
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with OLC)
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Superior Service Medal (with OLC)
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit (with OLC)
Bronze Star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Meritorious Service Medal (with OLC)
Silver oak leaf cluster
Meritorious Service Medal (with 5 OLC)
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Commendation Medal (with 4 OLC)
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Achievement Medal (with OLC)
U.S. unit awards
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Joint Meritorious Unit Award (with 2 OLC)
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Superior Unit Award (with OLC)
U.S. non-military decorations
State Department Superior Honor Award
State Department Meritorious Honor Award
U.S. service (campaign) medals and service and training ribbons
Bronze star
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal (with 2 Service Stars)
Bronze star
Bronze star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (with 2 Service Stars)
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Korea Defense Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Army Overseas Service Ribbon (with award numeral 13)
U.S. badges, patches and tabs
Combat Infantryman Badge
Expert Infantryman Badge
Master Parachutist Badge (United States)
Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge
Army Staff Identification Badge
Ranger Tab
U.S. Central Command Shoulder Sleeve Insignia (United States Army) – Former War Time Service (SSI-FWTS).
Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Shoulder Sleeve Insignia (United States Army) – Former War Time Service (SSI-FWTS).
5 Overseas Service Bars

Foreign military and civil decorations

Non-U.S. service medals and ribbons

Foreign badges

Academic Awards

Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Centennial Medal
George F. Kennan Award for Distinguished Public Service


In August 2007 Eikenberry was given the key to the city of Goldsboro, North Carolina by the mayor.[15]


  1. ^ a b Weaser, Natasha (June 7, 2012). "Karl Eikenberry: On Afghanistan, China and life at Stanford". The Stanford Daily. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "Freeman Spogli Institute". 
  4. ^ Sousa, Greg (2007-08-22). "Hometown general visits" (Paid subscription required). Goldsboro News-Argus. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  5. ^ "Karl Eikenberry". Classmates. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Deputy Chairman of the Military Committee: Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry". NATO. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  7. ^ a b "About the Author". Institute for National Strategic Studies. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  8. ^ a b Schmitt, Eric (2009-01-29). "Obama Taps a General as the Envoy to Kabul". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  9. ^ Fatima Ayub; Sari Kouvo and Rachel Wareham (April 2009). "Security Sector Reform in Afghanistan". IFP Security Cluster Case Study. International Center for Transitional Justice. p. 9. 
  10. ^ Mason, Jeff (2009-03-11). "Obama picks U.S. ambassadors to Iraq, Afghanistan". Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  11. ^ Eikenberry, Karl (2010-01-25). "Ambassador Eikenberry's Cables on U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  12. ^ Eric Schmitt (January 25, 2010). "U.S. Envoy’s Cables Show Worries on Afghan Plans". New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2010. 
  13. ^ see Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward, 2010, Simon and Schuster, especially Chapter 18 (pp. 212-221), about internal discussions in the White House about what path to pursue in Afghanistan.
  14. ^ Czech Republic Military Awards and Decorations
  15. ^ Myers, Aness (2007-08-21). "Eight homes in city's sights" (Paid subscription required). Goldsboro News-Argus. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 

External links

  • Karl Eikenberry at Stanford, including his publications
  • The Runaway General:Stanley McChrystal, Obama's top commander in Afghanistan, Rolling Stone (June 22, 2010)
  • Former general talks on U.S., war The Tartan, Carnegie Mellon University, September 13, 2013.
  • Eikenberry and Michael McFaul on Foreign Policy, Stanford University, November 11, 2014.


  • Interview with Asia Source (May 2, 2006)
  • Interview with NPR (February 13, 2007)
  • Afghanistan: A Campaign Assessment at Harvard Institute of Politics (March 20, 2007)
Military offices
Preceded by
David Barno
Commander, Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan
Succeeded by
David D. McKiernan
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
William Braucher Wood
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan
Succeeded by
Ryan Crocker
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