US Ambassador Nominee: Afghanistan’s Fate Linked to Pakistan

Posted June 8th, 2011 at 11:05 am (UTC-5)
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The veteran diplomat nominated to be the next U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan says the country's future will depend on what happens in neighboring Pakistan.

Ryan Crocker testified Wednesday before lawmakers on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee. He said the situation in Afghanistan will not improve without “a fair measure of success in Pakistan.”

The United States has been putting increased pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terror groups based within its borders ever since U.S. commandos killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a town north of the capital of Islamabad last month.

Crocker also warned the U.S. must be careful as it begins a planned drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. He said the U.S. must make sure terror groups do not use the drawdown as an opportunity to move their bases back to Afghanistan.

The hearing on Crocker's nomination comes as U.S. lawmakers are increasingly expressing their frustration with the length and expense with the war in Afghanistan.

A report Wednesday by the Senate Foreign Relations committee says the U.S. government has little to show for the nearly $19 billion it has spent aiding the Afghan government over the last decade. It warns that U.S. attempts to rebuild Afghanistan may not survive when foreign troops leave the country in 2014.

The report also says the U.S. government's spending — by the sheer amount of it — has often overwhelmed the local Afghan economies and fostered corruption.

During his testimony, Crocker admitted corruption is a key problem in Afghanistan, saying it amounted to a “second insurgency,” making groups like the Taliban more attractive.

Crocker served as a diplomat in Afghanistan in 2002, when he helped reopen the U.S. embassy in Kabul. He also served as ambassador to Iraq and Pakistan.

The chairman of the Senate committee, Democrat John Kerry, expressed hope that the panel and the full Senate would approve Crocker's nomination quickly.

President Barack Obama is considering how many U.S. troops to cut from the 100,000 now in Afghanistan.

Senior Defense Department officials have cautioned against a precipitous withdrawal for fear that U.S. military gains against the Taliban could be reversed. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is retiring soon, has called for a “modest” decrease.