FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — The former U.S. ambassador to Iraq said Tuesday that even with 30,000 more U.S. troops heading to Afghanistan, a change in strategy is essential if the U.S. wants to succeed after eight years of war.
Ryan Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to spring of this year, said that it’s not just a matter of how many more forces are sent to Afghanistan — but how they are used. He also stressed that success in Afghanistan can’t be expected to look like Iraq.
Crocker spoke with officers at the Army’s Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan. hours before President Barack Obama was set to announce during an evening broadcast that he is dispatching 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Obama also plans to assure the country that U.S. forces will begin coming home in July 2011.
Crocker was the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq when a surge of forces were sent to tamp down rising sectarian violence — something that couldn’t have taken place or been successful had the Iraqis not gone through the painful sectarian strife that threatened the future of the nation, he said.
Likewise, Crocker said that sending more troops to Afghanistan also could not have come any sooner because the Taliban forces there were not as strong in recent years as they are now.
“It would have made no sense to surge against an adversary that hadn’t taken to the field,” Crocker said at the Kansas Army post after speaking to officers. “Timing is everything.”
Had the U.S. pushed more forces into Afghanistan to eliminate a weakened Taliban following its fall in 2001, the move would have played into the hands those who view the Americans as occupiers, Crocker said. But when the Afghanistan government failed to provide services for the country, the Taliban was able to regroup and gain power, he said.
“Will it work? We’ll have to see,” Crocker said of Obama’s plan.
He said the U.S. European and NATO allies have been waiting for Washington to announce its plans for Afghanistan before making their own decisions on whether to send more troops.
“I think our allies have been waiting this. No one was going to move until we moved,” Crocker said. “That’s not to say that they are going to go all-in like we are, but they were waiting to see what the U.S. is going to do and what is the U.S. assessment.