War on Terrorism

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Crocker: Afghanistan on Track for Next Stage in Development

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2012 – Afghanistan is on the right trajectory to move to the next stage in its development, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan C. Crocker said yesterday in an interview with NPR’s Renee Montagne.

Nearly a year to the day of his July 25 appointment last year, the career diplomat said he is stepping down at the end of this month due to health reasons.

“What I'll miss the most is the chance to see Afghanistan move to the next stage of its development at every level -- economic, governance and security -- because I think they're on the right trajectory,” Crocker said.

“I felt we had a pretty good last year in setting that up,” he added. “I would have liked to have been part of the process of seeing it through. I'm confident they will get there. It would have been nice to be on deck to watch them do it.”

Crocker was the sixth ambassador to Afghanistan since 2001. He had retired from the Foreign Service in April 2009 after a 37-year career and was serving as dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. In April 2011, President Barack Obama nominated Crocker to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, and Crocker came out of retirement to accept the position. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in June 2011.

Crocker served as ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009 after three years as ambassador to Pakistan.

He joined the National War College faculty as international affairs advisor in 2003, and from May to August of that year, he was in Baghdad as the first director of governance for the Coalition Provisional Authority.

From 2001 to 2003, he was deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. He served as ambassador to Syria from 1998 to 2001, ambassador to Kuwait from 1994 to 1997, and Ambassador to Lebanon from 1990 to 1993. Since joining the Foreign Service in 1971, he has had assignments in Iran, Qatar, Iraq, Egypt and Washington.

Crocker was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Beirut during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the bombings of the embassy and the Marine barracks in 1983.

As U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, one of Crocker’s accomplishments was to help to secure international pledges of aid worth $16 billion at a donor’s conference held this month in Tokyo.

“The Tokyo conference and its outcome, I think, is highly significant because it produced a document in which the international community accepts certain obligations to provide funding, and the Afghan government accepts certain obligations to fight corruption, to build institutions,” Crocker said.

As the international community sees the Afghan government deliver on its own obligations, the ambassador added, “both the incentive and the pressure on [the] international community to provide the promised assistance simply increases.”

According to news reports, Afghanistan agreed to new conditions to deal with internal corruption, and donors agreed to hold a follow-up conference in 2014 in the United Kingdom.

Crocker said he found it “highly encouraging” that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has created a 14-point decree for all ministries to follow as they begin to deliver on their side of the undertaking. “The way he frames it now is that the international community has done everything that Afghanistan could conceivably ask,” Crocker said. “It is now up to the Afghans to put their own house in order.”

The ambassador also gave three reasons why he expects no civil war in Afghanistan after NATO’s combat drawdown is complete at the end of 2014.

“When I got there at the beginning of 2002, it looked like Berlin in 1945,” he said, “and that was because of the Afghan civil war. No one wants to go back to that.”

A second point, he said, is that “minority groups clearly see their interests [in] having a voice in national decisions.”

“No major minority politician is thinking in terms of separatism,” he said. “It's all [about] how can they be more, rather than less, involved in Kabul.”

A third point is the enemy itself, Crocker said.

“The Taliban and their allies are equal opportunity killers: Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks. … In a sense, an enemy who indiscriminately kills all Afghans regardless of community or ethnicity or political affiliation has actually been a unifying factor,” he said.

Crocker’s final impression of the Afghan capital of Kabul, he said, is of “a vibrant, bustling city with shops open, streets crowded, horrendous traffic -- which some would consider a problem, but frankly I see as a sign of confidence in the security and stability of the capital.”

There's a long way to go, he said. “But from the devastated ghost town of 2002 to the Kabul of today, it's an extraordinary achievement,” he added. “And I leave with the sense of a city that is very, very much alive and moving into the future.”

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