Ex-ambassador to Afghanistan: ‘I’m left with some grave questions’ about Biden’s ability to lead

Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker said Friday that he has “some grave questions” about President Biden’s “ability to lead our nation as commander-in-chief” after the Taliban seized control of the country following U.S. troop withdrawal. 

“I’m left with some grave questions in my mind about his ability to lead our nation as commander-in-chief,” Crocker, who led the U.S. Embassy in Kabul from 2002 to 2003, then again from 2011 to 2012, told The Spokesman-Review.

“To have read this so wrong – or, even worse, to have understood what was likely to happen and not care,” he added.

Crocker, who also represented the U.S. in Afghanistan under the Bush administration from 2002 to 2003, said the collapse of Afghan forces amid the U.S. troop withdrawal was the result of “a total lack of coordinated, post-withdrawal planning on our part.”

“That’s why this is all so sad,” he added. “It is a self-inflicted wound.”

The former ambassador told the news outlet that the “direction” of the Taliban’s military offensive was “predictable,” but the “trajectory was not.”

He cited Biden’s decision to carry out former President Trump’s plan to pull all troops from the region following Trump’s February 2020 deal signed with the Taliban. That agreement sought to begin the process of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by holding the Taliban to a number of conditions.

“What President Biden has done is to embrace the Afghan policy of President Trump, and this is the outcome,” Crocker said.

Crocker’s criticism comes as both opponents and allies have hit Biden over his handling of the situation. Last week, the insurgent group made significant military gains, taking over major cities in Afghanistan before they set their sights on the nation’s capital of Kabul. 

On Sunday, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as the Taliban took over the capital.  

Biden defended his decision to pull troops from the region, saying during an address to the nation on Monday, “I stand squarely behind my decision.”

He did, though, admit that the situation in Afghanistan “did unfold more quickly than we anticipated.”

The president did not offer information or reflection on what went wrong with the U.S.’s withdrawal effort. Intelligence reportedly said that Afghanistan could potentially collapse within 90 days, but its fall proved to be much more swift. 

Crocker, who also served as ambassador to five other countries during his career, contended that the Afghan government was delegitimized by the U.S.’s withdrawal effort.

“We’ve spent the last almost two years delegitimizing the Afghan government and its security forces,” Crocker said. “It has destroyed the morale of the government and certainly of its security forces.”

“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,” he added.

Crocker opined on the current state of affairs in Afghanistan, telling the news outlet “we have seen this movie before.”

“This would be the Taliban of the 1990s that gave safe haven to al Qaeda, except they’re meaner and tougher than they were then because of what they’ve been through,” he added.

Updated at 1:11 p.m.

Tags Afghanistan troop withdrawal Donald Trump Joe Biden Taliban War in Afghanistan
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