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Transcripts & Remarks

Remarks by Ambassador Ryan Crocker at Swearing-in Ceremony

Remarks by Ambassador Ryan Crocker at Swearing-in Ceremony

July 25, 2011

U.S. Embassy, Kabul

  Thanks very much Ambassador Cunningham, Ambassador Pearce, and Zane.   That, ladies and gentleman, is the making of an American Ambassador.  The swearing of that simple but powerful oath.  The same oath, as Ambassador Pearce noted, that our military brethren also swear and that Zane himself swore, as he was commissioned as a Foreign Service Officer.  As Ambassador Pearce noted, it is extremely unusual to have a swearing in overseas.  They are almost always done on the eighth floor of the Department of State, with the Secretary of State administering the oath.  This time we asked someone rather more junior than the Secretary of State to perform that function.  Zane represents the future of America’s Foreign Service and we thank him for his commitment to that service. 

I wanted to take this oath here to stand before my Embassy colleagues, both American and Afghan, who constitute the U.S. civilian presence and surge, and tell all of you how proud I am of you, your courage, your dedication, and your commitment. Today means a great deal to me personally.  Almost ten years ago, Ambassador Pearce and I traveled to New York on U.N. business.  We arrived on the morning of 9/11, just as the towers were hit, and we watched the collapse from the Queensboro Bridge.  That is why I asked Ambassador Pearce to hold the Constitution this morning.

I reopened the Embassy after the fall of the Taliban.  And six months after 9/11, then Colonel, now Lieutenant General John Mulholland and I buried a piece of the World Trade Center under the base of the flagpole. There’s a plaque that commemorates that.  We will never forget. In ten years on, I am here to join all of you in doing our utmost to ensure that such an attack never happens again.

I am delighted and honored to be joined in this effort by General Allen.  We served together in Iraq, and I can testify that no finer officer has ever worn a U.S. uniform.  It’s an honor to be back with you again, Sir.  Together, with full unity of effort, we will build on what Ambassador Eikenberry and General Petraeus have already accomplished.  This is, of course, a coalition and an international effort, and I am very pleased to see so many of our allies here today, as well as members of the international community. I would single one out in particular, Mr. Staffan Di Mistura, the Special Representative of the Secretary General, who also was my colleague in Iraq and did the same brilliant work there that he is doing here.

We are at a time of transition in Afghanistan.  It is a time for us to step back and for the Afghans to step forward, as they are doing.  There can be no more clearer evidence than in last week’s successful security transition.  This is an indicator of the progress that Afghanistan has achieved in recent years.  However, I think all of us – Americans, coalition partners, the international community, and the Afghan leadership – know that we must proceed carefully. There will be no rush for the exits.  The way we do this in the months ahead will have consequences far beyond Afghanistan and far into the future.  Frankly, we left the wrong way in the early 1990’s, and we all know the history of those decisions:  the civil war, the rise of the Taliban, sanctuary for Al Qaida, and 9/11.  So how we proceed as partners in support of Afghanistan is critical.   We have to think this through carefully, we have to consult with the Afghan government, and the coming year will be critical in setting the right glide path.

Those of us in the international community face challenges at home as well.  Our people are tired of military involvements, and the expense of blood and treasure. But my answer to that, again, is to remind those who say we should be done of the incalculable long-term effects and costs of getting it wrong.  We owe nothing less to the next generation of Afghans, Americans, and others not to repeat the mistakes of 20 years ago.

Despite the complexity of the issues, the process of transition over the next few years is not only clear, it is underway.  For us to support Afghanistan, this means support for sustainable, stable, and capable Afghan institutions, both military and civilians. It means support for the process of Afghan national political reconciliation, so that all in this country will have a chance to live in harmony in an agreed political framework.  It means scaling down the enormous international assistance flow in a non-disruptive way and helping Afghanistan scale up its own revenue streams, building sustainable infrastructure and capacity, and promoting the country’s integration into the commercial life of a vital region.   It also means making clear that we are not, and will not, abandon our friends nor our principles. It means doing everything we can to ensure the strength and vigor of civil society, and ensuring that the rights of all – and especially women – are preserved. It means doing everything possible to alleviate the fears of ordinary Afghans about what the future will bring.  To that end, we intend to do our part by concluding a Strategic Partnership Declaration that will codify the long term commitment of the United States to Afghanistan’s success.

Let me make one other point clear: we have no interest in permanent bases in Afghanistan.  The President has said it, the Secretaries of State and Defense have said it, and I repeat it here.  We will stay as long as we need to and not one day more.  We have no interest in using Afghanistan as a platform to protect influence into neighboring countries.  Our sole interest is in Afghanistan’s security and sustainable stability, and ensuring that it will never again become a haven for international terrorism that poses a threat to the international community.  So we call on all of Afghanistan’s neighbors and the international community to become fully invested in that quest for stability and prosperity.  We have important conferences in front of us:  Istanbul in November and Bonn in December that I hope will chart a course well beyond 2014.  And beyond 2014, even when Afghans have transitioned to a full security lead, I am confident that we, the international community, will be in a position to work with Afghanistan to prevent any forcible return of the Taliban to power.  Those days are gone. 

And finally, ladies and gentlemen, we are all in this together:  Afghans, Americans, allies, the international community. We all have a great deal at stake and we all have an obligation to make this work.  And I am hugely proud to be here in Kabul this morning to lead the Embassy effort and to be part of the broader international effort.  Thank you for your attention. Zindabad Afghanistan!