Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan (2011-2012), writes in Washington Post Opinions in response to The Post’s Afghanistan Papers investigation
Submitted to Veterans Today by the Washington Post
From the headlines, a reader could not be blamed for thinking that Afghanistan is a wall-to-wall disaster for the United States, another Vietnam about which we must admit defeat and get out. Yet, for anyone who has been paying close attention, there are a few surprises here […]
Regarding Afghanistan, I have also been inclined to see the glass as half full — the missteps, mistakes and bad decisions notwithstanding. Part of this involves perspective.
Read the full piece. Additional excerpts below:
- When Hamid Karzai was appointed chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority, he had nothing to work with. No institutions, no accepted or enforceable body of laws, no army, no police, no economy. There were 900,000 Afghan children in school, all of them boys. One of the first things we did after the fall of the Taliban was to open schools for girls […] When I left Afghanistan as ambassador in 2012, 8 million Afghan kids were in school, a third of them girls. Does that sound like a disaster?
- Corruption was, as The Post’s article indicates, a huge problem in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is hardly a revelation — the Kabul Bank scandal, involving the pilfering of around $1 billion, was public knowledge within months of the bank’s collapse in 2010. The hard truth here is that when major resources flow into a country without institutions, rule of law or accountability mechanisms, corruption is virtually guaranteed. The solution? Slow the flow of resources to a level where controls are possible. But that is difficult, too. Much of the logistical support for the U.S. military is outsourced to contractors. We may be able to go to war without them, but we can’t sustain a war that way.
- We came to Afghanistan and remain there now for one essential reason — the United States’ national security. These SIGAR interviews are about what contributes to that end and what doesn’t. I have argued that a better life for people in a misgoverned country is an essential part of that effort. It is also about American values. What is it, exactly, about nation-building that we must avoid at all costs? Does it extend to looking in the eyes of a hopeful Afghan girl of kindergarten age and saying, “Sorry, kid. You’re on your own”?
- The Post has assembled a significant set of documents. It is an amazing exercise in investigative journalism. Perhaps a next step could be analyzing the hard lessons so many of us have learned in that hard place. I have mentioned just a few.