The Cable

Why did David Kilcullen leave the Crumpton Group?

David Kilcullen, the former Australian military officer who became a key architect of the "surge" strategy in Iraq, is among the most respected counterinsurgency gurus in Washington, a senior advisor to generals and officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations and a prolific author and speaker on the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan.

So his announcement to a private, off-the-record meeting of foreign-policy wonks last month that he was quitting his main consulting gig left many in the room scratching their heads.

Kilcullen almost missed his planned appointment to speak with the group that Saturday morning in late January, explaining that he had just spent several hours suddenly resigning from the Crumpton Group, the consulting firm headed by former State Department and CIA official Henry "Hank" Crumpton, over "a matter of principle."

Contacted by The Cable, Kilcullen confirmed his remarks but said he couldn't discuss the reasons for his split with the Crumpton Group because he had signed a non-disclosure agreement.

"What I can say is that I'm still very heavily involved in work in Afghanistan and in support of foreign assistance, humanitarian work, governance and development worldwide, and have formed my own company to work in that space."

The Cable

Dalai Lama envoy: Canceled meeting was 'misread by the Chinese'

China's response to the upcoming meeting in the White House between President Obama and the Dalai Lama depends on whether Communist Party leaders believe their protests will produce a concession from the White House, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's top envoy said Tuesday.

"Of course they will make a lot of noise. They do that all the time. But they are also rational," said Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, one of the senior envoys of Tenzin Gyatso, also known as the Dalai Lama. Gyari has been dealing with Chinese on contentious issues for decades.

"The moment they think they can get something out of it, they will become relentless. But the moment they realize it's not going to work, that's it," he said.

The meeting comes after a previous meeting between the two Nobel Peace Prize winners was canceled during the Dalai Lama's last trip to Washington last autumn. That meeting was scuttled in part because the Obama administration did not want to upset U.S.-China relations ahead of the president's trip to China last November. There was also a hope that the Chinese would respond favorably.

But Gyari said he now has deep reservations about the decision to scuttle that meeting.

"We had a lot of misgivings, but in the end that was a decision we took together because we saw some merit in it," he said. "Our intentions were noble, but I think it was misread by the Chinese."

The envoy said the decision created a setback for Tibet that showed itself in similar actions by the Danish and French governments. But Gyari said the greatest concern about the cancelled meeting last year was the effect it had on the morale of Tibetans inside Tibet.

"Inside they get only some information ... this was devastating," he said. "As long as the Tibetans inside Tibet know that their spokesperson, their leader, has the opportunity to intersect on their behalf at the highest level, no one wants to band their head, to be arrested or tortured. But when they think that's not happening, that sometimes can actually lead to destabilization."

Gyari urged foreign governments not to yield to Chinese pressure about hosting the Dalai Lama, saying that it was equivalent to agreeing with Beijing's depiction of the lama as a dangerous radical whose real goal is Tibetan independence, not greater autonomy and religious freedom within China.

"Whenever any world leader refuses to meet with His Holiness because of China's protest of him being a ‘splittist,' if they oblige they must understand they are then reinforcing or they are subscribing to the Chinese accusation that His Holiness is a splittist. Simple as that."

Much of the coverage of the Obama-Lama meeting will focus on optics, analyzing the atmospherics and symbols surrounding the summit to infer what the White House is thinking about engaging the exiled Tibetan leader.

For example, the meeting will be held in the map room at the White House, not the private residence or the Oval Office, as some early reports indicated. There is no announced press conference and no planned joint meeting with Obama, the Dalai Lama, and congressional leaders, as was held in 2007 when Congress awarded the Dalai Lama the congressional Medal of Honor.

But those details are not that important to the Dalai Lama, Gyari said, who just values the opportunity to meet the U.S. president and share views and ideas. He did acknowledge that everyone isn't so unconcerned with such details.

"A lot of people do care ... the Chinese care because sometimes the substance and form are of equal importance," said Gyari. "And the Tibetans care."