U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker called for calm in Afghanistan and for the United States to maintain its commitment to partnership with the Afghan government following several American deaths in recent days.
“This is not the time to decide that we are done here,” Crocker said on CNN’s State of the Union. “We’ve got to redouble our efforts. We’ve got to create a situation in which al-Qaida is not coming back.”
Crocker defended the response by the Afghan government to widespread protests over the alleged burning of Korans on a U.S. base last week, which have resulted in more than two dozen deaths, including four Americans.
“I think we need to bear in mind that the Afghan security forces have throughout this whole process been seeking to quell these demonstrations,” he said. “They’ve done so with loss of life on their side, as well as some of the protesters, and they have been defending U.S. installations. So they are very much in this fight, trying to protect us.”
Asked whether the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan is worth the efforts, Crocker, a veteran U.S. diplomat who has served in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, responded with some perspective.
“This is hard,” he said. “I opened this embassy here more than a decade ago and there was nothing. No institutions, no ministries, no police, no army, no nothing. Coming back after almost a decade, while the challenges are huge, the achievements are pretty considerable too. The stakes, as I said, remain high.”
Crocker said he has experienced similar situations in other countries and that he expects the protests and violence to taper off.
“Tensions are running very high here,” he said. “I think we need to let things calm down, return to a more normal atmosphere and then get on with business.”