Leaks of Classified Data on Afghanistan Review Prompt Internal Probe

In the first week of November, Gen. Karl Eikenberry, US Ambassador in Kabul and former top military commander in Afghanistan for two years, is said to have advised President Barack Obama against approving a troop surge. The ambassador's opinion was offered in two classified cables received by the president while leading his war cabinet in deliberations on his next strategy for the war-torn country. The ambassador is also believed to have taken part in those sessions on Nov. 11 by video link.

But the next day, Thursday, November 12, the secret cables featured in New York Times and Washington Post reports, together with the disclosure that Gen. Eikenberry opposed Afghanistan commander Stanley McChrystal's request for another 40,000 troops. This leak from a closed-door White House conference added a new wrinkle to the already protracted debate over America's next steps in Afghanistan. When he learned that the leaked information was to appear in both newspapers the next day, the president was angrier than his closest aides and White House staffers had ever seen him before, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly sources in Washington.

1. It was Obama's first experience of a serious leak from his innermost councils that was designed to change his decision on a critical issue – in this case, the future of the Afghanistan conflict.

At the same time, it was not lost on him that Washington's entire political and security establishment had known since early November that the President's decision on Afghanistan had been made.

On the ninth of November, this was reported by NBC military correspondent David Martin under the headline: Obama's Afghan Plan: About 40K More Troops.


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The White House shot back by forcing network executives to append the following announcement, attributed to National Security Adviser James Jones:

Reports that President Obama has made a decision about Afghanistan are absolutely false. He has not received final options for his consideration, he has not reviewed those options with his national security team, and he has not made any decisions about resources. Any reports to the contrary are completely untrue and come from uninformed sources.

But David Martin stood by his story, and it was aired.

2. The NBC report which was correct and the ambassador's cables were all leaked after the president had already reached his decision on Afghanistan and was looking for the proper time and place for an early public announcement.

The premature leaks were therefore designed to change Obama's decision post factum, sabotage his new policy and prevent the surge of tens of thousands more soldiers to Afghanistan.

It was Barack Obama's first encounter with this kind of scheme, presumably by a White House insider, to derail his surge policy for Afghanistan. It had the effect of delaying its announcement.

According to our sources, the thinking behind his decision to grant Gen. McChrystal's request for tens of thousands of troops derives from a simple conclusion: The US does not have the option of negotiating with or altering the attitude of the Taliban hard core led by Mullah Omar. Therefore, US commanders in Afghanistan must persuade the tribal and clan chiefs who send fighting strength to Taliban to change sides, a ploy that succeeded with Iraqi's Sunni chieftains in 2006 and 2007.


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To work, this method of recruitment needs large sums of money to grease the palms of the tribal leaders willing to switch their loyalties round. But military and intelligence chiefs warned Obama that even hard cash will not pull them in without substantial American military strength to back it up.

3. The president and his staff speculate that the whistleblower was a participant in the eight exhaustive sessions held in the White House to determine strategy for Afghanistan. (The last one took place on Nov. 11.)

Other candidates are either a personal aide of one of the participants who got wind of the classified materials, a member of Eikenberry's personal staff, or an employee at the US embassy in Kabul who handled the cables.

Obama is determined to find the culprit and have him brought to book before he unveils his new Afghanistan policy in public

Thursday, November 12, the president entrusted his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel with leading an investigation of White House and Kabul embassy personnel to discover the source, our Washington sources report. Emanuel was given carte blanche to question any individual and receive access to any agency able to assist in the inquiry.

In a CBS interview from Beijing Wednesday, Obama said: "I think I am angrier than Bob Gates, because we have these deliberations in the Situation Room for a reason – because we are making decisions that are life-and-death, that affect how our troops will be able to operate in a theater of war. For people to be releasing information during the course of deliberation – where we haven't made final decisions yet – I think is not appropriate."

The interviewer: "A firing offense?" The President: "Absolutely."

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