Karl Eikenberry

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Karl W. Eikenberry
Lt Gen Karl Eikenberry.jpg
United States Ambassador to Afghanistan
In office
April 29, 2009 – July 25, 2011
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byWilliam Braucher Wood
Succeeded byRyan Crocker
Personal details
Born (1951-11-10) November 10, 1951 (age 69)
Spouse(s)Ching Eikenberry[1]
ResidenceMorgan Hill, CA[2]
Alma materUnited States Military Academy (B.S.)
Harvard University (M.A.)
Stanford University (M.A.)
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1974-2009 [3]
RankUS-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General
Battles/warsWar in Afghanistan

Karl Winfrid Eikenberry (born November 10, 1951)[4] is a retired United States Army lieutenant general who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from April 2009 to July 2011. From 2011 to 2019, he was the Director of the U.S. Asia Security Initiative at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center and a Stanford University professor of the practice; a member of the Core Faculty at the Center for International Security and Cooperation; and an affiliated faculty member at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, and The Europe Center.[5][6]

Eikenberry is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences where he co-directs the Academy's multiyear project on civil wars, violence, and international responses, and a member of the Academy's Committee of International Security Studies. He serves on the board of The Asia Foundation, American Councils for International Education, the Asia Society of Northern California, Academic Exchange, and the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. He is a faculty member of Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University in Beijing,[7] and a member of the Working Group on Science and Technology and U.S.-China Relations organized by the UC San Diego 21st Century China Center and the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. Additionally, Eikenberry is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and Institute for International Strategic Studies.

Early life and education[edit]

Eikenberry was born in 1951 in Hammond, Indiana and graduated from Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1969.[8] He then attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant upon graduation in 1973.[9]

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.[10] In addition, Eikenberry has studied in Hong Kong at the UK Ministry of Defence Chinese Language School, earning the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Interpreter's Certificate for Mandarin Chinese, and at Nanjing University, earning an advanced degree in Chinese history.[11]

Military career[edit]

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, October 2005.

In the Army, Eikenberry commanded and held staff positions in airborne, ranger, and mechanized infantry units in the United States, Korea, and Europe. He also served as Assistant Army Attaché and later as the Defense Attaché in the United States Embassy in Beijing, People's Republic of China. His other political-military assignments included Senior Country Director for China and Taiwan in the Office of Secretary of Defense, Foreign Area Officer Division Chief and Deputy Director of the Strategy, Plans and Policy Directorate on the Army Staff,[12] and Director of Strategic Planning and Policy Directorate, United States Pacific Command, Camp Smith, Hawaii.

Eikenberry served two tours of duty in the war in Afghanistan.[13] 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 was responsible for 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.[14] In his role as Chief of the OMC-A he was the chief architect of the strategy that established the new Afghan National Army.

Eikenberry succeeded Lieutenant General David Barno as Commander, Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan, on May 4, 2005.[15] During his second tour from May 2005 to February 2007, he was responsible for transferring operational responsibility for southern and eastern Afghanistan to the NATO International Security Assistance Force and the international training of the Afghan National Army and Police Forces. He also commanded the military task force sent to Pakistan to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the wake of the October 8th, 2005 Kashmir earthquake. He completed his military career in Brussels, Belgium as the Deputy Chairman of the NATO Military Committee.[11]


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.[13] The official announcement of his nomination was made on March 11.[16] Following his confirmation as ambassador, he retired from the U.S. military with the rank of Lieutenant General on April 28, 2009. As the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, he led the civilian surge directed by President Obama, overseeing the growth of the embassy staff from 350 to 1,400 civilian personnel from eighteen United States Government departments and agencies, and the administration of bilateral development assistance budget of over $4 billion USD annually.

Leak of classified cables[edit]

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,[17] 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".[18] 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 an unreliable partner for the United States in its efforts in Afghanistan.[19]

Career at Stanford University[edit]

Eikenberry with Sayed Makhdoom Raheen and Waheedullah Shahrani at the Kabul Museum in March 2011.

After his position as ambassador in Afghanistan, in September 2011 Eikenberry became the Payne Distinguished Lecturer at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University[20] and subsequently the William J. Perry Fellow in International Security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation. While at Stanford University, Eikenberry joined the faculty of the Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies, served as a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences congressionally mandated Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, acted as a consultant for NATO and the RAND Corporation, and lectured and written on civil-military relations, U.S. Asia-Pacific strategy and Sino American relations, counter-insurgency and state-building strategies, and the contribution of the arts and humanities to America's international competitiveness.


  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (February 1988). "The Imjin War" (PDF). 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. Archived from the original on 2009-01-09. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (Summer 1996). "Take No Casualties". Parameters. 26 (2): 109–118. Archived from the original on June 9, 2007.
  • 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" (PDF). American Academy of Arts & Sciences: Bulletin. 65 (3).CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (January 2013). "The Militarization of US Foreign Policy" (PDF). American Foreign Policy Interests. 35: 1–8. doi:10.1080/10803920.2013.757952. S2CID 154672685.
  • Eikenberry, Karl W.; 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. doi:10.1080/0163660x.2013.751647. S2CID 153668204.
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (June 2014). "The American Calculus of Military Intervention". Survival: Global Politics and Strategy (3 ed.). 56 (3): 264–271. doi:10.1080/00396338.2014.920157. S2CID 154842453.
  • Fukuyama, Francis; 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. Archived from the original on 2014-11-06. Retrieved 2014-11-06.
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (June 2015). "China's Place in U.S. Foreign Policy". The American Interest. 10 (6).
  • Eikenberry, Karl W. (Fall 2017). "Civil Wars and Global Disorder: Threats and Opportunities" (PDF). Daedalus. 146 (4).

Awards and decorations[edit]

Personal decorations and badges[edit]

Eikenberry's personal decorations include:[11]

U.S. military decorations
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 3 OLC)
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Superior Service Medal (with 2 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 ribbon.svg 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
USA - DOS Distinguished Honor Award.png State Department Distinguished Honor Award
Superior Honor Award.svg State Department Superior Honor Award
DoS MHA.JPG State Department Meritorious Honor Award
Director of Central Intelligence Award
JCSDCS.jpg Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Distinguished Civilian Service 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 ribbon.svg Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal ribbon.svg Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Korea Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg Korea Defense Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal ribbon.svg Humanitarian Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon.svg Army Service Ribbon
Award numeral 4.png Army Overseas Service Ribbon (with bronze award numeral 4)
U.S. badges, patches and tabs
Combat Infantry Badge.svg Combat Infantryman Badge
Expert Infantry Badge.svg Expert Infantryman Badge
Master Parachutist badge (United States).svg Master Parachutist Badge (United States)
Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge.png Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge
United States Army Staff Identification Badge.png Army Staff Identification Badge
Ranger Tab.svg Ranger Tab
CFC-A SSI-FWTS.jpg Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Shoulder Sleeve Insignia (United States Army) – Former War Time Service (SSI-FWTS).
ArmyOSB.jpg 5 Overseas Service Bars

Non-U.S. service medals and ribbons[edit]

Foreign military and civil decorations[edit]

Foreign badges[edit]

Academic Awards[edit]

Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Centennial Medal

Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Degree, North Carolina State University [22]

Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree, Ball State University [23]

Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters Degree, University of San Francisco [24]


George F. Kennan Award for Distinguished Public Service

State of North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award [25]

Goldsboro High School Athletic Hall of Fame [26]

In August 2007 Eikenberry was given the key to the city of Goldsboro, North Carolina by the mayor.[27]

In November 2018, Eikenberry was the Keynote Speaker at the Stanford Model United Nations Conference.


  1. ^ https://web.archive.org/articles/2010/07/03/ching-eikenberry-letter-from-kabul.html
  2. ^ "A retired general was tapped for leadership at Northwestern, but opponents derailed the appointment". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2016-12-15. Retrieved 2016-12-15.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2020-03-28. Retrieved 2020-03-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Watson, C.A. (2008). U.S. National Security: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 142. ISBN 9781598840414. Retrieved 2015-04-10.
  5. ^ "Freeman Spogli Institute". Archived from the original on 2012-06-18. Retrieved 2014-09-14.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-04-16. Retrieved 2016-02-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Schwarzman Scholars". Schwarzman Scholars. Archived from the original on 2019-11-15. Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  8. ^ Sousa, Greg (2007-08-22). "Hometown general visits" (Paid subscription required). Goldsboro News-Argus. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2010-06-23.
  9. ^ "Karl Eikenberry". Classmates. Archived from the original on 2009-04-05. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  10. ^ https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/who_is_who_139939.htm Archived 2018-02-21 at the Wayback Machine, Deputy Chairmen of the NATO Military Committee, Jan 10, 2017, retrieved Feb 20, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c "Deputy Chairman of the Military Committee: Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry". NATO. Archived from the original on 2010-01-17. Retrieved 2010-06-23.
  12. ^ "About the Author". Institute for National Strategic Studies. Archived from the original on January 10, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  13. ^ a b Schmitt, Eric (2009-01-29). "Obama Taps a General as the Envoy to Kabul". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2015-04-09. Retrieved 2010-06-23.
  14. ^ Fatima Ayub; Sari Kouvo; Rachel Wareham (April 2009). "Security Sector Reform in Afghanistan" (PDF). IFP Security Cluster Case Study. International Center for Transitional Justice. p. 9. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-03-09. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  15. ^ "Defense.gov News Article: Eikenberry Takes Command of Coalition Forces in Afghanistan". defense.gov. Archived from the original on 2015-04-08. Retrieved 2015-04-10.
  16. ^ Mason, Jeff (2009-03-11). "Obama picks U.S. ambassadors to Iraq, Afghanistan". Reuters. Reuters. Archived from the original on 2009-04-06. Retrieved 2010-06-23.
  17. ^ Eikenberry, Karl (2010-01-25). "Ambassador Eikenberry's Cables on U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2010-08-05. Retrieved 2010-06-23.
  18. ^ Eric Schmitt (January 25, 2010). "U.S. Envoy's Cables Show Worries on Afghan Plans". New York Times. Archived from the original on October 27, 2011. Retrieved 2010-06-24.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Weaser, Natasha (June 7, 2012). "Karl Eikenberry: On Afghanistan, China and life at Stanford". The Stanford Daily. Archived from the original on November 13, 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  21. ^ "Czech Republic Military Awards and Decorations". army.cz. Archived from the original on 2015-04-18. Retrieved 2015-04-10.
  22. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-02-07. Retrieved 2016-02-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-12-18. Retrieved 2016-12-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ "Past Recipients | myUSF". myusf.usfca.edu. Archived from the original on 2018-10-17. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-13. Retrieved 2016-02-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-02-07. Retrieved 2016-02-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  27. ^ Myers, Aness (2007-08-21). "Eight homes in city's sights" (Paid subscription required). Goldsboro News-Argus. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2010-06-23.

External links[edit]


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