Report: Obama’s new Afghanistan ambassador is … Bush’s old Iraq ambassador

posted at 9:04 pm on April 26, 2011 by Allahpundit

That would be Ryan Crocker, of course. Please don’t confuse him with David Petraeus, Obama’s top Afghanistan commander who used to be … Bush’s top Iraq commander. Or with Robert Gates, Obama’s Secretary of Defense who used to be … Bush’s Secretary of Defense.

Gates, of course, is stepping down in a few months. At this rate, I wonder if O will replace him with Rumsfeld.

The move would reunite Crocker with Gen. David Petraeus in a rerun of the diplomatic and military “dream team” credited with rescuing the flagging American mission in Iraq. In the coming months, Obama will have to name replacements for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, other senior military leaders and probably Petraeus himself…

U.S. military and civilian defense leaders call 2011 the make-or-break year for turning around the war and laying the path for a gradual U.S. exit by 2015. The main obstacles are the uncertain leadership and weak government of Karzai, the open question of whether the Taliban can be integrated into Afghan political life and the continued safe harbor Pakistan provides for militants attacking U.S. and NATO forces over the border in Afghanistan…

The diplomatic heft Crocker may be able to bring to the post and his experience running the civilian side of a war alongside Petraeus could help Obama cement recent military gains ahead of the planned withdrawal. But bringing back the duo that helped salvage former President George W. Bush’s political fortunes in Iraq also risks making Obama look desperate or lacking new ideas for the war he said was more important than Iraq…

If Crocker is nominated and confirmed, it would be a return to Afghanistan after a caretaker stint nine years ago when he reopened the U.S. Embassy after the Taliban regime was ousted in Afghanistan.

Bill Kristol proposed reuniting the Petraeus/Crocker tandem last year when McChrystal resigned, a fact bound to make this appointment even more queasy to the left. It makes perfect sense, though: As noted by the AP, Crocker has wide experience in the region and some in Afghanistan itself, and he and Petraeus do have a famously good working relationship from their Iraq days. The only nuance is that … Petraeus is likely leaving by the end of the year, possibly to succeed Mullen as Joint Chiefs chairman or possibly to succeed Panetta at the CIA. Which makes me wonder if this move is designed as some earnest surge-type attempt to stabilize the country or more as political cover for Obama with a major withdrawal already in mind. If he gives the team that worked miracles in Iraq a cursory chance to get Afghanistan on track and they can’t do it, he can order a pullout claiming that we gave it our very best shot. And even if they can get it on track — at this point, frankly, I don’t even know what that would mean — a major withdrawal is likely in the offing soon anyway, especially with Obama’s approval ratings on the war sinking and with the election around the corner.

As a quick window into what Crocker and Petraeus are facing, here’s former Clinton administration ambassador Peter Galbraith succinctly describing the suffusive corruption of Karzai’s government. You don’t need any special occasion to reflect on that, but the springboard in this case is that insane Taliban jailbreak in Kandahar that released hundreds of fighters back into the country just as the spring offensive is set to begin. Everyone but everyone, including Afghans, thinks it was an inside job. No confidence.

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