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Karl Eikenberry

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General & Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General & Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan

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Karl Eikenberry Biography

Karl Eikenberry is a former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and Lieutenant General, U.S. Army (retired). He is a senior advisor to the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Defense on its defense and military transformation plan. He is also a faculty member of Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.

From 2011-2019 he was director of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University. He was also an affiliate with the Stanford University Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies’ Center for International Security and Cooperation; Center for Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law; and The Europe Center.

Prior to his arrival at Stanford, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2009 until 2011. Before appointment as chief of mission in Kabul, he had a thirty-five year career in the United States Army, retiring with the rank of lieutenant general. His military operational posts included as commander and staff officer with mechanized, light, airborne, and ranger infantry units in the continental U.S., Hawaii, Korea, Italy, and as the Commander of the American-led Coalition forces in Afghanistan. He held various policy and political-military positions, including deputy chairman of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium; director for Strategic Planning and Policy for U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith, Hawaii; and assistant army and later defense attaché at the United States Embassy in Beijing.

He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, has earned master’s degrees from Harvard University in East Asian Studies and Stanford University in Political Science, and was a National Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Eikenberry earned an Interpreter’s Certificate in Mandarin Chinese from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office while studying at the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence Chinese Language School in Hong Kong and has an advanced degree in Chinese History from Nanjing University.

His military awards include the Defense Distinguished and Superior Service Medals, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Ranger Tab, Combat and Expert Infantryman Badges, and master parachutist wings. He has received the Department of State Distinguished, Superior, and Meritorious Honor Awards, and Director of Central Intelligence Award. His foreign and international decorations include the Canadian Meritorious Service Cross, and French Legion of Honor. Eikenberry is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, co-directs the Academy’s project on civil wars, violence, and international responses, and serves on the Academy’s Committee on International Security Studies.

He belongs to the boards of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva, The Asia Foundation, American Councils for International Education, Asia Society of Northern California, National Bureau of Asian Research, and National Committee on American Foreign Policy; and he is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Liechtenstein Institute for Self-Determination, Princeton University.

His articles and essays on U.S. and international security issues have appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Washington Quarterly, The American Interest, American Foreign Policy Interests, Lawfare, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Survival, Dædalus, The Financial Times, Parameters, and Military Review.

Karl Eikenberry Speaking Topics

  • Soft Power & America’s Global Competitiveness

    Harvard Professor Joe Nye famously coined the expression "soft power" • the ability of a nation to attract and persuade others through example, as contrasted with compelling through the application of coercive force. Historically, the demonstrated effectiveness of the U.S. ways of governance, the evident strengths of its socio-economic system, and the popularity of its culture have been the key components of America's tremendous global appeal. Overemphasizing the military or security dimension of America's international standing and excessively focusing education on science, technology, engineering and mathematics to the detriment of the arts and humanities risk undermining our nation's traditional source of leadership • soft power. Karl Eikenberry will draw upon his own experiences as a diplomat, soldier and student abroad to discuss why America's global competitiveness can only be maintained and improved by remaining a model worthy of emulation.

  • The Limits of American Military Interventions

    America's defense spending accounts for over 40% of the global total. Its armed forces, since the end of conscription 1973, has emerged as the most capable and lethal in world history. Yet many U.S foreign military interventions over the past four decades have produced disappointing results at high costs. The causes can be traced to the erosion of constraints on the government's willingness to send its military into harm's way, an increasing tendency to define every foreign policy challenge as direct security threat, and the failure of political leaders to establish clear objectives for their forces in the field. America's prestige and self-confidence have suffered as a consequence. Karl Eikenberry, whose professional career has spanned both diplomatic and military operational assignments, will discuss why the U.S. armed forces have often not performed as well as expected over the course of long campaigns and how the American people and their government can remedy the situation.

  • In Search of an American Grand Strategy of Foreign Policy

    American foreign policy appears to be in disarray as Russia and China aggressively pursue territorial claims, international jihadists are on the offensive in an arc from North Africa to Central Asia, and international norms and institutions weaken. Yet the world is still much less dangerous than during the Cold War and the United States almost certainly more secure. What is changing is that U.S. global dominance, a given since the end of the Second World War, is eroding and other centers of power starting to emerge. Karl Eikenberry will explore the sources of disruption and discontinuity with the past, and describe how an effective American foreign policy must be grounded in the realities of today's world.

  • The Future of U.S. – China Relations

    China’s rapid rise to power is challenging America's decades long global preeminence and giving rise to fears that, as Beijing’s leaders steadily drive to reclaim the Middle Kingdom’s historical greatness, future Sino-American conflict is inevitable. The gap is closing. Already, China has the world’s second largest gross domestic product and defense budget, and its global trade volume exceeds that of the United States. Yet on closer examination, the two nations are highly interdependent and the PRC itself faces extraordinary constraints as it attempts to reform its political-economic system. Karl Eikenberry, who served in Asian diplomatic and military posts for over three decades, will examine Sino-American competition and explore the opportunities and risks for the U.S.

Karl Eikenberry Videos

  • Amb. Karl Eikenberry discuss US-Afghanistan
  • The Growing Sino-American Military Rivalry with Karl Eikenberry
  • Counterterrorism, Counterinsurgency and Contradictions: America's Lessons

Speaker Lists Featuring Karl Eikenberry

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  • What topics does Karl Eikenberry speak about?

    Karl Eikenberry is a keynote speaker and industry expert whose speaking topics include Government, Military, Political, Political.
  • Where does Karl Eikenberry travel from?

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Karl Eikenberry is a keynote speaker and industry expert who speaks on a wide range of topics such as Soft Power & America’s Global Competitiveness, The Limits of American Military Interventions, In Search of an American Grand Strategy of Foreign Policy and The Future of U.S. – China Relations. The estimated speaking fee range to book Karl Eikenberry for your event is available upon request. Karl Eikenberry generally travels from and can be booked for (private) corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. Similar motivational celebrity speakers are John W. Nicholson Jr., Carter Malkasian, Ray Mabus, J. Christopher Daniel and Robert D. Kaplan. Contact All American Speakers for ratings, reviews, videos and information on scheduling Karl Eikenberry for an upcoming live or virtual event.

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