By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 25, 2011 – U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan C. Crocker told employees during his first day on the job in the Afghan capital of Kabul today that there will be “no rush for the exits” during this critical transition period in Afghanistan.
Crocker presented his diplomatic credentials to Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul.
Marine Corps General John R. Allen, who assumed command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan last week and served with Crocker in Iraq, joined the ambassador at today’s ceremonies. Crocker praised Allen’s capabilities and promised “full unity of effort” to build on what Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, along with the rest of the coalition, already has accomplished.
“We are at a time of transition in Afghanistan,” Crocker said. “It is a time for us to step back and for the Afghans to step forward, as they are doing.”
Crocker pointed to last week’s successful security transition as an indicator of progress the Afghans have achieved in recent years, but recognized the fragility of that progress.
“I think all of us -- Americans, coalition partners, the international community and the Afghan leadership -- know that we must proceed carefully,” he said. “There will be no rush for the exits. The way we do this in the months ahead will have consequences far beyond Afghanistan and far into the future.”
The coming year will be critical in setting the right path, Crocker said, emphasizing the importance of thinking through the transition period carefully and in consultation with the Afghan government.
Crocker also warned of the “incalculable long-term effects and costs of getting it wrong” in Afghanistan.
“We owe nothing less to the next generation of Afghans, Americans and others not to repeat the mistakes of 20 years ago” that enabled the Taliban and al-Qaida to seize power there, he said.
As the transition in Afghanistan continues, Crocker emphasized the importance of a continued commitment to helping the Afghans build their institutions and a better future for their people. That includes working to conclude a Strategic Partnership Declaration that he said will codify the long-term U.S. commitment to Afghanistan’s success.
Crocker said the United States has no interest in permanent bases in Afghanistan.
“The president has said it, the secretaries of State and Defense have said it, and I repeat it here,” he said. “We will stay as long as we need to, and not one day more. We have no interest in using Afghanistan as a platform to project influence into neighboring countries. Our sole interest is in Afghanistan’s security and sustainable stability, and ensuring that it will never again become a haven for international terrorism that poses a threat to the international community.”
Crocker called on Afghanistan’s neighbors and the international community to become fully invested in that effort, through 2014 and beyond.