Ambassador: U.S. will not accelerate removal of troops from Afghanistan
Money Quote from the article:
"A military investigation into the burning of the Qurans at Bagram could conclude as early as this weekend. Crocker and Allen have said the soldiers involved may face punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice but will not be turned over to the Afghan courts as requested by Karzai."
KABUL — America will not accelerate the removal of its troops from Afghanistan despite a series of attacks on U.S. soldiers by Afghan security personnel angered over the burning of Qurans at a coalition airfield, according to the top U.S. diplomat here.
Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, emphasized in an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that the troop withdrawal would proceed as outlined last summer by President Barack Obama.
“We have not invested the billions of dollars we have and the lives of 1,900 Americans to see the Taliban retake this country and al-Qaida once again be able to restage here,” Crocker said.
“That’s why we’re here — to be sure al-Qaida is defeated and that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for forces that would seek to attack us on our own soil.”
There are 90,000 U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan. The number will be reduced to 68,000 by Sept. 30, and most of the remaining troops will leave by the end of 2014.
Crocker’s statements echoed those of Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta this week as top U.S. officials attempt to counter deepening suspicion between Afghans and coalition forces, and mounting criticism in America of a war more than a decade old.
Since Feb. 21, when reports surfaced that soldiers at Bagram Airfield had burned several copies of the Quran, Afghan security forces have shot and killed six U.S. servicemembers in three separate incidents.
The latest shooting occurred Thursday, when two Afghan soldiers and a literacy instructor opened fire at a base in Kandahar province, killing two U.S. soldiers and wounding a third. Coalition troops returned fire and killed the two Afghan soldiers.
The attack followed the shooting deaths of a pair of American soldiers by an Afghan counterpart at a base in Nangarhar province on Feb. 23.
Two days later, an Afghan police officer gunned down two U.S. military advisers at the Interior Ministry building in Kabul. The suspect remains at large.
The slayings at the ministry led U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, NATO’s commander in Afghanistan, to recall the hundreds of U.S. advisers who work in government buildings in the capital.
Some advisers have since returned to their offices. But the succession of what the military terms “green-on-blue” attacks could strain the relationship between Afghan security forces and the coalition troops charged with training them before departing in 2014.
Crocker, while describing the killings as “horrible incidents,” sought to place the attacks in the larger framework of the ongoing effort to build an Afghan military force of 350,000 troops.
“When you look at the number of international advisers out there every day with Afghan forces, both in training and in an operational context, you’re talking about a tragic but very, very tiny percentage of incidents,” he said.
Violence jolted Kabul and several provinces for a week as Afghans protested the burning of the Qurans. More than 30 people were killed and hundreds injured, with most of the casualties occurring as demonstrators clashed with Afghan security forces.
Considering that some protests drew upward of 4,000 people, Crocker said the bloodshed “could have been a lot worse.”
“One of the hardest things you can ask a police or military force to do is confront your own population,” he said. Crediting Afghan security forces for responding “with discipline and determination … and, under the circumstances, a minimum use of force,” Crocker appraised their actions as a “bright spot” amid the unrest.
“We’ve seen the future, in a sense, of Afghan forces able to operate independently — without coalition partners, without coalition embeds,” he said.
“The Taliban did their best to instigate a lot of these protests,” he added. “They can’t be too happy with how it turned out for them.”
Obama, Panetta and Allen offered apologies for the burning of the Qurans, eliciting criticism from some of the Republican candidates for president, including frontrunner Mitt Romney. Crocker defended the public show of contrition.
“We’re Americans, and one of our qualities is that when we make mistakes, we acknowledge them and we apologize for them,” he said.
“It was also important — although I didn’t think that was anyone’s initial motivation — in giving President (Hamid) Karzai the tool to say, ‘Look, they have acknowledged it was a mistake, they’ve apologized for it, everybody calm down.’”
A military investigation into the burning of the Qurans at Bagram could conclude as early as this weekend. Crocker and Allen have said the soldiers involved may face punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice but will not be turned over to the Afghan courts as requested by Karzai.
Crocker, 62, served a two-year stint as ambassador to Iraq that ended in 2009, and previously held the same post in Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. The native of Spokane, Wash., helped reopen the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in 2002 after American forces ousted the Taliban from power.
“I’ve never seen such utter devastation and annihilation as I saw here …,” he said, recalling the aftermath of Afghanistan’s civil war. “Parts of the city — large parts of the city — looked like Berlin (in) 1945.”
He returned to Kabul as the U.S. ambassador last summer at Obama’s request, possessed of a “strategic patience” learned from his time in Iraq.
“If Iraq was hard, and it was, Afghanistan is harder,” said Crocker, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President George W. Bush.
“Iraq had a reasonably well-developed infrastructure, a proud military tradition, a skilled set of bureaucrats. … Afghanistan had none of those things after 30 years of conflict. Everything had to be built from the ground up.”
He contends the past decade has brought gains in educational opportunities for girls and women, wider access to health care and an expanded range of government services.
As for the democratic government maturing at a slower rate than Westerners might have hoped, he said, “You cannot have a total revolution in a country and then expect that overnight it’s going to transform itself into a modern liberal democracy. (America) didn’t do it. It’s a struggle.”
Looking beyond 2014 and the withdrawal of most U.S. troops, Crocker envisions an international presence staying in Afghanistan in an advisory role.
In the interim, he considers the elimination of Taliban safe havens in Pakistan near its border with Afghanistan vital to the prospects of peace.
“Ultimately, it’s going to take Pakistani action and the recognition that these insurgent groups are more dangerous to them than they are to Afghanistan,” Crocker said. “They have taken thousands of casualties in their military and paramilitary forces fighting insurgents on their own soil.”
Meanwhile, as speculation persists of discord within the Taliban-led insurgency about entering into peace talks with the Afghan government, Crocker regards that internal strife as an advantage for the coalition.
“A divided Taliban is not a bad thing at all,” he said. “You reconcile with those who are reconcilable, and then you figure out what the minimum number of irreconcilables are and you go after them. I mean, let’s face it, like in Iraq, there are some you simply have to kill because they’re not going to come across.”
The recent burning of Qurans at a NATO base in Afghanistan involved five American servicemen and a local translator, according to a NATO official familiar with the investigations.
Agree with that. The sooner the better, we need to defend America.
If theses Soldiers get as much as an Article 15, the Army should hang their collective head in SHAME. These men did NOTHING wrong. Maybe they should have "lit up" the afghanis that rushed off with the remains and told all their buddies about the infidel Americans. That was their only mistake, and technically, that too, would have been a mistake under our misguided Rules of Engagement.
I'm not holding my breath for a good outcome. The "new normal military" sucks.
"If theses Soldiers get as much as an Article 15, the Army should hang their collective head in SHAME."
The Brass will hold their heads in shame because we will never let them live down that shame!
Our problem in this country is people want to sluff off their responsibility of discipline whether it be self discipline or discipline of others...they choose to instead throw it out as it's only God's responsibility. I'm glad I don't have those people living in my home when someone breaks in and attempts to kill us, rape or whatever! We are all given responsibilities and it would do us well to know them. I also think it would do the church [goers] in the United States a big enlightenment if they'd read scripture - as in scripture alone! Don't add their imputs and stop adding words/reading between the lines! Read what it says and stop adding to it and/or taking it out of context to make it say what one would prefer it to say or have "always heard what others say it says or means." If it don't say it, it don't say it....if it says it, it says it.
Remember the book of Daniel. Where the Israelites wanted to worship other Gods. So God let them go to Babylon, where Daniel was made a Eunuch thrown into the Fiery pit and made to serve his life out as a Captive. Just to name a few gifts God will give a nation when we ask for the wrong things, like leaders who wish to serve other Gods.
Revenge is the Lord's, or so he said. Let's keep it that way -- it's not what this nation is all about. Let's just help get rid of the Taliban and come on home. I am glad our men aren't being turned over for a "trial." Accidents are accidents; we need to get a grip on what this country is all about. Not about protecting Qur'ans. Getting rid of the enemy, the Taliban, is primary.Then we need to guard our borders; have our military here where they belong, protecting Americans -- from the government, if necessary.
We also need to get the hell out of the UN and get the UN out of America -- but that won't happen any time soon.
You are correct bout vengeance being the Lord's but if you think for even an instant that we will rid that place of the Taliban or Al-qaida you are dead wrong. We may drive them out for a little while but as soon as we are outta there, they are back and laughing their collective butts off. There are plenty of non religious people here in the U.S., as evidenced by most of the current events, let them be, and watch the middle east smolder for a few years, that is how you defeat the Taliban. Sorry if you think otherwise.
SO let me get this straight the knuckle dragging Neanderthals defaced their own "fake" unholy book by writing messages in them sent to other captives and the no longer sacred supposed muslim bible became what it is best suited for, kindling. So these animals go about killing our troops who had nothing to do with this fiasco, when they should have shot the morons who defaced the "war manuals" to begin with! To date no apology from the Afghan government for the murder of our innocent soldiers. Yet our resident muslim in the White House has the temerity to send a letter of apology to these subhuman ingrates. We should have airmailed them an appropriate response. The general staff who stand around with their hands in their pockets, while our troops are being murdered, violate their oath and the UCMJ. They should be rallying the troops to be brought home!
with Obama in charge and his appeasement ways bowing to the pressures of the Muslim Brotherhood, placing them inside of our Homeland Security and as advisers in the White House, and since I do not believe in coincidences I find it very hard to not think they were the reason our CIA agents in the regions were outed, hunted down and killed.
kill`em all, let allah sort them out
I would agree but since I do not believe in allah, I would have to say let God sort them out, if there is any sorting to be done that is...
I think we are looking at a perfect time frame for Obama's 80% reduction of our nuclear stock piles, send them all over to Afghanistan and if "Coincidentally" a few hundred of our old and unreliable warheads hit Iran Obama can bow to them and say he is sorry. It would be a great time to replace all our outdated warheads with the newer multiple warheads.