The Wall Street Journal reports on that the CIA station chief in Afghanistan carries a significant amount of influence with Hamid Karzai:
The Obama administration has turned to the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief in Afghanistan to troubleshoot Washington’s precarious relationship with President Hamid Karzai, propelling the undercover officer into a critical role normally reserved for diplomats and military chiefs.
The station chief has become a pivotal behind-the-scenes power broker in Kabul, according to U.S. officials as well as current and former diplomats and military figures. In April, when Mr. Karzai lashed out against his Western partners, it was the station chief who was tapped by the White House to calm the Afghan president.
The station chief’s position became more crucial following the June firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, perhaps the only other senior American who had a close relationship with Mr. Karzai, U.S. officials say.
The unusual diplomatic channel is in part a measure of how fragile U.S. relations with the mercurial Afghan president are.
“Karzai needs constant reassurance,” said one former colleague of the station chief, and the chief is his “security blanket.”
The CIA’s prominent role in Afghanistan is fraught, the spy agency having clashed at times with the official diplomatic mission. That has complicated the civilian component of the U.S. military surge.
In particular, the station chief’s role has led to tensions with the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry. Officials said the ambassador objected last fall to the return to Kabul of the station chief, who had held the same post earlier in the war. Mr. Eikenberry declined to comment, as did the State Department.
The relationship with Mr. Karzai isn’t handled on a daily basis by the station chief; rather, he is called on at critical times. With the administration trying to get all of its leaders in Afghanistan on the same page following Gen. McChrystal’s dismissal, others including Mr. Eikenberry and new Allied commander Gen. David Petraeus, as well as senior North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials, also are working to build closer relations with Mr. Karzai.
Some officials worry the U.S. dependence on personal relationships to deal with Kabul is insufficient. It’s “becoming a substitute for a political approach to the Afghan government that is really missing,” said one former military official.
Click here to read more.