U.S. Diplomacy in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria: An Interview with Amb. Ryan Crocker

Where does the future lie for Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria? Should President Trump pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan or not? What should policy makers think about when considering whether to intervene in another country’s affairs and exporting democracy? Is the U.S. retreating itself from the global order? Has the Trump administration done any damage to the foreign services system? … 

Here to answer those questions is one of the most respected career ambassadors within the U.S. Foreign Service and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom –– Ambassador Ryan Crocker. He has served as United States Ambassador to Afghanistan (2011–2012), Iraq (2007–2009), Pakistan (2004–2007), Syria (1998–2001), Kuwait (1994– 1997), and Lebanon (1990–1993). 

A few punchlines? 

  • Before President Trump further withdrew troops, where we were in Afghanistan was adequate. It's not great, but it's not awful either. And we are helping the Afghans maintain a rough stability where they are neither losing nor gaining considerable bits of ground. 

  • Democracy has to be built from the ground up in terms that reflect the realities the fears and the desires of the people who actually live there. 

  • We should only use the military when we see no alternative except the use of military force. Getting in isn't a problem for us –– we have the greatest military on earth, and people just get out of our way when we get there, but we don't focus enough on what's next. Once the guns fall silent, as they did literally days afterwards in Iraq and in Afghanistan, that's the part of the process where we need to think through the consequences. 

  • Americans are known for their lack of strategic patience. We are an impatient people, and that's how we built our great country. 

  • There is a great sense of relief in the State Department, both foreign service and civil service, that Rex Tillerson is no longer the Secretary of State. He did more damage to the State Department and the foreign service as institutions than we have ever experienced before. 

Amb. Ryan Crocker

Amb. Ryan Crocker

Tiger GaoComment