It is difficult to exaggerate the enormity of the loss for U.S. interests in Afghanistan from the early departure of Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Crocker is, quite simply, the best in the business of diplomacy.
He established superstar credentials by working with Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq to make the surge a success in 2007-2008. He further burnished his credentials in the last year by establishing a good working relationship with the volatile Hamid Karzai after relations with him had been mishandled by a succession of American envoys. The result was the signing of a U.S.-Afghanistan Security Partnership Accord that would have been inconceivable without Crocker’s deft, unobtrusive work.
It is shame that he will wind up serving only a year in Afghanistan–but it is a huge tribute to him that he agreed to come out of retirement at all, given his back problems and the comfortable university job he had to leave. Along with the continuing drawdown of U.S. troops and the expected departure of General John Allen, Crocker’s retirement is further cause for concern about Afghanistan’s future. A diplomat like Crocker is worth an infantry division.