Ryan Crocker’s Afghanistan: Mission Impossible
May 22, 2012
A one-of-a-kind U.S. diplomat says he’s leaving Afghanistan. Ron Moreau on what the ambassador achieved and how hard he will be to replace.
n late 2001, shortly after the Taliban’s collapse, a young, relatively unknown Pashtun tribal leader was named as interim leader of Afghanistan by an international conference at Bonn, Germany. Just 10 days later, one of America’s top troubleshooting diplomats landed in Kabul. It would be his job to reopen the U.S. Embassy, which had been shuttered since 1989. But Ryan Crocker’s other job in the Afghan capital would be even more important: to work closely with President Hamid Karzai, whose main qualification for the job was that unlike practically every other potential Afghan leader, he didn’t have blood on his hands from the country’s interminable civil wars. “We were together every day for the four months I was here,” Crocker told The Daily Beast earlier this year in the heavily guarded American Embassy earlier this year. “And every single conversation we had would have the phrase ‘What the hell do we do now?’”Crocker and Karzai bonded in early 2002 while they tried to figure out their next moves in a country that had been devastated by three decades of war and five years of Taliban misrule. And that decade-old friendship served them well after President Obama cajoled Crocker to come out of retirement last summer, leave his cushy position as dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, and return to Kabul. A sense of patriotism and mission forced Crocker to accept Obama’s can’t-refuse offer...
President Obama and the State Department must be asking the same question right now. Crocker has announced that he’s preparing to leave Kabul, returning to retirement a full year before his latest two-year posting was to end. Replacing one of the State Department’s most talented diplomats won’t be easy, not only because Crocker has an intimate and encyclopedic knowledge of the region, but also because he managed to establish a close rapport with the famously difficult, mercurial, and irascible Afghan president.
Interesting article. Go read the rest here.