What a Load of Crocker! Senate Hears Nominee for Ambassador of Kabul

Edward Kenney Afghanistan Study Group

Ryan Crocker, nominee to be the next ambassador of Afghanistan, testified on Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as part of his confirmation process.

An exchange between Senator Webb (D, VA) and Crocker was emblematic of the event, with Webb questioning both the cost of the war and our strategic priorities. Quoting a Peggy Noonan op-ed, the Senator suggested that we need plenty of nation-building right here in the United States:

“Spending billions of dollars on infrastructure in another country.  It should only be done if we can articulate a vital national interest…To be quite frank we need a lot of that here.”

He ended with the question, seemingly taken right out of the Afghanistan Study Group Report.

“Can you articulate for us your view of the strategic interests and how the current military strategy can get us to an endpoint in this strategy?”

Crocker, well versed in the President’s strategy, correctly recited the rationale for war, “to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and ensure that Afghanistan can never be a safe-haven for terrorist.  But then something interesting happened.  Instead of simply nodding and moving on to other issues, the Senators began to question these strategic goals.

Webb, a Vietnam War veteran, likened our presence in Afghanistan to a game a “whack-a-mole”, pointing out that the insurgency is mobile and has proven adept at both moving across international lines and bringing the fight to soft targets inside of Afghanistan.  Along similar lines, Senator Kerry asked whether it made sense to focus on Afghanistan as a sanctuary for terrorists, when the real terrorist safe-haven is in Pakistan.  Even Senator Risch (R, ID) got in on the action:

“This is a messy situation that isn’t getting any better… to articulate what our objectives are and what our goals are and how this is going to end with us achieving those, is very very difficult to grasp…I am very skeptical about how we’re going to handle this.”

The Senators of the Foreign Relations Committee are asking the right questions.  It’s time for the administration to come up with some answers.

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