Local News

Goldsboro High alum leads civilian mission in Afghanistan

Posted January 15, 2011 5:33 p.m. EST
Updated January 16, 2011 3:46 p.m. EST

— Long before President Obama appointed U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry to Afghanistan in 2009, the retired Army lieutenant general was living in North Carolina and serving as vice president in his high school's student council.

It was 1969. Eikenberry was attending Goldsboro High School, where he completed grades 10 through 12. 

He never imagined he'd someday lead the civilian mission in Afghanistan, but he said he's honored to be making an impact in a nation ravaged by war.

"There isn't a day that goes by where I don't feel the weight of the responsibility," Eikenberry said. "I'm in awe of the mission I lead, and I'm praying I can do my job the very best for this country."

He visited his alma mater Saturday and discussed diplomacy efforts in Afghanistan, where more than 100,000 U.S. troops are currently deployed. Eikenberry said he was sent to Kabul to try to rebuild the country and empower its leaders.

"With each year, they want to stand up on their own. They want to be in charge of their own country," he said.

Former President George W. Bush declared the "war on terror" with air strikes over Afghanistan in October 2001, in response to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Since then, Eikenberry said, Obama has made Afghanistan the top priority for U.S. military operations overseas. He said progress has been slow, but significant.

"For the first time in Afghanistan, we have the inputs, so to speak. Those inputs, military force, civilians on the ground, development budget, and we've organized our efforts in a much better way to achieve our goals," Eikenberry said.

One of the diplomat's goals is for the Afghan army and police to take over security operations by 2014. As ambassador, Eikenberry sees his role clearly.

"Letting the Afghan people know what the U.S. is doing in their country, getting out and about in the country of Afghanistan, having confidence in our mission and showing respect to the Afghan people," he said.