News: General Retires, Readies to Become Ambassador to Afghanistan
Story by Fred Baker
WASHINGTON - Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry retired today, 24 hours before being sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.
Until today, Eikenberry served as the deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium. Tomorrow he will be sworn in by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as ambassador.
"I'll make this very brief. [My wife] and I are very eager to enjoy our 24-hour vacation," the general joked during his retirement ceremony held at the Hall of Heroes in the Pentagon.
Eikenberry has spent more than 35 years in the Army and recently served two tours in Afghanistan. In his job at NATO, Eikenberry was heavily involved in the NATO international security assistance force mission and regularly traveled to Afghanistan.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, who presided over the ceremony, said Eikenberry was the right man for the job.
"Karl Eikenberry's talents are ideally suited to the president's new comprehensive strategy, in which we must get the civilian piece of our efforts right," Mullen said. "To plan real seeds of success in this region: opportunity, education and hope."
In Afghanistan, Eikenberry served as the commander of Combined Forces Command and as the security coordinator and chief of the office of military cooperation in Kabul.
In other political-military roles he served as the defense attaché at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and as the Defense Department's senior country director for China and Taiwan.
Eikenberry is a U.S. military academy graduate and holds master's degrees from Harvard University in East Asian studies and from Stanford University in political science. He also earned an advanced degree in Chinese history from Nanjing University in the China. He has authored several articles on military training and tactics, history, and Asia-Pacific security issues.
"Karl's experience as a soldier-scholar will be crucial to fostering the strong civil-military relationship required to tip the balance, enable good governance to take root and hold," Mullen said. "He knows the enemy, he knows our allies, and he knows himself."
Mullen said Eikenberry's appointment comes at a critical time when civil-military operations have become more vital to success in Afghanistan.
Mullen, who just returned from a trip to the region, said that the challenges there will not be fixed my military solutions alone.
"Our success, which is really the success of the people, truly hinges upon our ability to build civilian capacity," Mullen said.
Eikenberry praised the new strategy for Afghanistan and expressed confidence it its ability to bring stability there.
"I look forward to working with old and with new teammates as we move forward to implement the president's new strategy under extraordinarily difficult conditions," he said.