A veteran US diplomat who headed the Kabul embassy twice – including in 2002 soon after it reopened after five years of Taliban rule – said he has ‘grave’ concerns over President Joe Biden’s ability to lead the United States after Afghanistan fell to the insurgent group once again on Sunday.
Former Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker on Monday called the Taliban’s takeover a predictable ‘self-inflicted wound’ to US foreign policy.
‘That’s why this is all so sad,’ Crocker said.
Like many officials he was surprised at how quickly the war-torn country was taken, he told The Spokane Review – but that the ‘trajectory’ was inevitable.
‘What President Biden has done is to embrace the Afghan policy of President Trump, and this is the outcome,’ Crocker said.
‘I’m left with some grave questions in my mind about his ability to lead our nation as commander-in-chief…to have read this so wrong – or, even worse, to have understood what was likely to happen and not care.’
Former Afghanistan Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the devastating scenes of the evacuation effort are a ‘self-inflicted wound’ on the US
Crocker urged Biden to cut the ‘red tape’ and ramp up efforts to get Afghans to safety (pictured: an Afghan family rushes to Hamid Karzai Airport as they flee Kabul)
The career diplomat was the second acting ambassador to head the Kabul embassy after diplomatic relations were reestablished in 2001. President Barack Obama later called him out of retirement to serve in the post again for roughly a year from 2011 to 2012.
Over the last week the Taliban mounted a lightning offensive to seize the majority of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals. Two decades of US diplomacy, military strategy and more than $80 billion unraveled when the group declared victory Sunday, after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and Kabul fell without a fight.
Crocker warned that this Taliban is ‘meaner and tougher’ than when the insurgent group took Afghanistan in 1996 ‘because of what they’ve been through’ with the US.
Crocker said Biden allowing this to unfold under his watch raises ‘grave questions’ on Biden’s competence as president (pictured: Taliban members near Kabul airport)
He also said the Taliban are ‘meaner and tougher’ now than the first time they took over the war-torn country
Crocker was appointed ambassador to Afghanistan by President Bush in 2002 and President Obama in 2011
Accounts of the extremist group’s brutal treatment of civilians and Afghan soldiers who surrendered have pushed thousands to flee the capital, despite the Taliban’s promises of no retribution and to let people leave if they wished.
Biden adviser Jake Sullivan mounted the administration’s defense and blamed Afghan troops who ‘ultimately decided that they would not fight for Kabul’ on NBC Monday morning.
And while Sullivan praised the evacuation effort, Crocker said it showed ‘a total lack of coordinated, post-withdrawal planning on our part.’
Crocker said it’s Biden’s draw down of US troops following former President Trump’s peace agreement with the Taliban that’s at fault.
‘We’ve spent the last almost two years delegitimizing the Afghan government and its security forces,’ he said.
‘It is not exactly a climate in which these young troopers can be reasonably expected to hold that line, having been sold out by us.’
The veteran diplomat criticized Biden for sticking by Trump-era foreign policy and pushing ahead with the US withdrawal
He said Biden’s decision emboldened the Taliban who see it as a US defeat and ‘sold out’ Afghan soldiers who depended on US support
In 2020 Trump held talks with the Taliban without the involvement of the Afghan government. During those he agreed to a full military withdrawal by May 2021 and the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
Crocker claimed the government ‘effectively sided with the Taliban’ and ‘sold out’ Afghan troops who had long been working with Americans.
The Biden administration has announced it would try to speed up the evacuation of thousands of Afghans who worked with the US and applied for Special Immigrant Visas by sending them to safe third countries.
The former diplomat expressed fear that ‘even with all that’ still ‘a lot of people are going to die’ and urged Biden to ‘sort out the red tape later’ and focus on getting people to safety.
As it advances and gains more territory, Taliban fighters have made it a priority to track down and kill Afghan interpreters or others who worked with the US during its 20-year occupation.
An Afghan child walks near military uniforms as he and elders wait to leave the Kabul airport on August 16th
‘They’ve got their hit list,’ he said of the Taliban. ‘So it’s going to be messy, it’s going to be incomplete and more people are going to die, but we’ve got to make our best possible effort.’
He also took aim at the Biden White House’s tepid warnings to the Taliban, urging them to reconsider their brutal takeover in favor of credibility on the world stage.
Crocker said the US would pay for its rushed evacuation ‘for a long time to come.’
‘That’s why it is insane – just idiotic – to think that we can tell the Taliban that if they don’t stop taking over territory and play nice, the international community will withhold recognition and support,’ he said.
‘The Taliban really doesn’t care.’