"Parlor-game speculation," as Spencer Ackerman calls it, is a popular Washington pastime, and the leaking of Ambassador Eikenberry's cables today--which the Wire covered here--provided ample fodder for the activity. Yet Ackerman managed to write four posts on the subject without fueling speculation on the leak's source. It might seem impossible to be that cautious and still offer insight, but Ackerman picked his way through the diplomatic carnage with dexterity. "The best I can do with Amb. Karl Eikenberry’s leaked cables," he writes, "is report that some
in the White House think Eikenberry himself leaked them." But don't trust that:
You ask someone who they think did it and their answer is refracted through their own prism of interest. Not only don’t they know, but they’re trying to direct you at their enemies.If Eikenberry was the source of the leak, Ackerman points out, it's not yet clear what effect this will have on relations with Kabul. Here's his incisive take on the cable mess:
I want to violate my own Prime Directive--no talking about Afghanistan like it’s Iraq--and recall that in late 2006, on the heels of the surge, Steve Hadley wrote a rather scathing vote of no confidence in Nouri al-Maliki that made its way to the press. That didn’t stop Maliki from cooperating with the Bush administration.
That said, I can see all the ways in which this is different from that. Eikenberry is the guy who has to deal with Karzai’s people every day, a much different bureaucratic arrangement from national-security-adviser Hadley. And Karzai knows--really, really knows--that the Obama administration has no confidence in him and is just stuck. Eikenberry needs, to put it bluntly, to unfuck this relationship. My sources tell me that the suspicion in the White House is that Eikenberry leaked his cables. If he did, I guess the only explanation that makes sense is that he did it to pressure Karzai, Hadley-style. But could that work?