US Mission Afghanistan: Ambassador Crocker returns, assures everyone "There will be no rush for the exits…" and that’s okay since our soldiers for 2023 will start kindergarten this fall

On July 25, Ambassador Ryan Crocker was officially sworn in at the U.S. Embassy Kabul as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. He was sworn in by “someone rather more junior than the Secretary of State,” by an FSO named Zane (so junior, no last name needed) who “represents the future of America’s Foreign Service” according to the transcript of the ambassador’s remarks. 
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Photos from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

Ambassador Crocker also presented his diplomatic credentials to Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a ceremony at the Presidential Palace on the same day.  He arrived in Afghanistan on July 24.

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Photos from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

by Ambassador Ryan Crocker at Swearing-in Ceremony
July 25, 2011 (excerpts)

We are at a time of transition in Afghanistan.  It is a time for us to step back and for the Afghans to step forward, as they are doing.  There can be no more clearer evidence than in last week’s successful security transition.  This is an indicator of the progress that Afghanistan has achieved in recent years. 

However, I think all of us – Americans, coalition partners, the international community, and the Afghan leadership – know that we must proceed carefully. There will be no rush for the exits.  The way we do this in the months ahead will have consequences far beyond Afghanistan and far into the future. 

Frankly, we left the wrong way in the early 1990’s, and we all know the history of those decisions:  the civil war, the rise of the Taliban, sanctuary for Al Qaida, and 9/11.  So how we proceed as partners in support of Afghanistan is critical.   We have to think this through carefully, we have to consult with the Afghan government, and the coming year will be critical in setting the right glide path.

Those of us in the international community face challenges at home as well.  Our people are tired of military involvements, and the expense of blood and treasure. But my answer to that, again, is to remind those who say we should be done of the incalculable long-term effects and costs of getting it wrong.  We owe nothing less to the next generation of Afghans, Americans, and others not to repeat the mistakes of 20 years ago.

Despite the complexity of the issues, the process of transition over the next few years is not only clear, it is underway.

President Karzai must be having a good day.  Job security assured for many more years to come since there will be “no rush for the exits.”  And if the “transition” is timed well, I bet we could make that transition lasts until 2050. Just visiting, of course.

The soldiers who will fight the war in Afghanistan and elsewhere in 2023 and beyond will be entering kindergarten this fall.      

updated @12:01 pm EST

UK’s Rory Stewart: Time to end the war in Afghanistan

British MP Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan after 9/11, talking with citizens and warlords alike. Now, a decade later, he asks: Why are Western and coalition forces still fighting there?

Via TED:

Now the member of British Parliament for Penrith and the Border, in rural northwest England, Rory Stewart has led a fascinatingly broad life of public service. He joined the Foreign Office after school, then left to begin a years-long series of walks across the Muslim world. In 2002, his extraordinary walk across post-9/11 Afghanistan resulted in his first book, The Places in Between. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he served as a Deputy Governorate Co-Ordinator in Southern Iraq for the coalition forces, and later founded a charity in Kabul.

To secure his Conservative seat in Parliament, he went on a walking tour of Penrith, covering the entire county as he talked to voters. In 2008, Esquire called him one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century.

He says: “The world isn’t one way or another. Things can be changed very, very rapidly by someone with sufficient confidence, sufficient knowledge and sufficient authority.”

“Stewart has long known that diplomacy of the deed is the only kind that matters.” – Parag Khana

Rory Stewart was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Malaysia. He served briefly as an officer in the British Army (the Black Watch), studied history and philosophy at Balliol College, Oxford and then joined the British Diplomatic Service. He worked in the British Embassy in Indonesia and then, in the wake of the Kosovo campaign, as the British Representative in Montenegro. In 2000 he took two years off and began walking from Turkey to Bangladesh. He covered 6000 miles on foot alone across Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal — a journey described in The Places in Between.

In 2003, he became the coalition Deputy Governor of Maysan and Dhi Qar — two provinces in the Marsh Arab region of Southern Iraq. He has written for a range of publications including the New York Times Magazine, the London Review of Books, the Sunday Times, the Guardian, the Financial Times and Granta. In 2004, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire and became a Fellow of the Carr Centre at Harvard University.

He is also the author of The Prince of the Marshes And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq.

US Embassy Mexico: Kept in the Dark on ATF’s Fast and Furious Escapades

Richard A. Serrano of LAT’s Washington Bureau reports that officials at the US Embassy in  Mexico raised concerns that U.S. guns were showing up at crime scenes in Mexico. But ATF officials kept the embassy in the dark about the operation to sell weapons to straw purchasers to trace smuggling routes.

If true, this is an excellent example of interagency uncooperation. Excerpt:

As weapons from the United States increasingly began showing up at homicide scenes in Mexico last summer, U.S. Embassy officials cabled Washington that authorities needed to focus on small-time operators supplying guns to the drug cartels.

Embassy officials did not know that at least some of the weapons were part of an ill-fated sting run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in which illegal straw purchasers were allowed to buy guns so smuggling routes into Mexico could be traced. Ultimately, ATF lost track of an estimated 1,700 weapons that were part of the so-called Fast and Furious operation, which began in November 2009.

Active links added above. Read the whole thing here.

LAT has also obtained a copy of an SBU telegram (sensitive but unclassified) from US Embassy Mexico dated July 2, 2010 sent via SMART with the subject “Mexico Weapons Trafficking – The Blame Game.” The cable includes the names of the drafting officer, clearance officers (EXEC, POL, ATF, CBP, ICE). Click here to read the cable.

Fast and Furious was somebody’s dumb idea masquerading as a light bulb, approved by several somebodies who sign off on it. But nobody with spine and integrity has come forward to claim this exhibit in “poor judgment.” I’m waiting for a top dog to step to the podium and announced to all interested that “mistakes were made.”