Crocker sees hope for Afghan economy
CHICAGO (PAN): Afghanistan’s development as a trade and transit center between South and Central Asia would significantly improve its economy, a top American diplomat who has been nominated as the US envoy to Kabul told lawmakers on Wednesday.
US President Barack Obama has nominated Ryan Crocker as the next Ambassador to Afghanistan.
“As a country centrally located in an important region, the Afghan-Pakistan trade and transit agreement was a very important step. I understand that President Karzai will be visiting Islamabad in just a few days' time -- I think the day after tomorrow -- which is good in and of itself, obviously, as the leaders of the two countries talk through their issues,” Crocker said.
“But I understand one of the objectives is to lay out the actual implementation of this agreement. Because Afghanistan, as a trade and transit center through Pakistan into India, up into the former Soviet republics to the north, with Iran -- I think all of that can provide a major difference for Afghans' economic future,” he said in response to a question from Senator Richard Lugar, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Preparing to head to Afghanistan pending confirmation from the US Senate, Crocker said the development of a robust private sector is going to be important.
“I would like to see US private investment come into Afghanistan. I worked hard on that in Iraq, with some success. Customs revenues have to pick up. I know there is a major effort underway where our trainers, mainly from the Department of Homeland Security, are working side-by-side with the Afghan border police. Corruption gets into this too. But they've got to increase their revenues,” he said.
Crocker said Karzai is committed to a unified, stable Afghanistan, and he looks forward to renewing the relationship with the Afghan president. “I'm certainly going to make every effort, as the ambassador, to have a productive working relationship with the head of state to which I'm accredited,” he said.
“Have we had differences? Are there things that we wish he would or would not have done? Are there things that he wishes we would or would not have done? Of course there are. One key issue is corruption. For the sake of the state of Afghanistan, the Afghan government is going to have to do more,” Crocker said in response to a question from Senator Robert Menendez.
“We wrestled with the same thing in Iraq. And you don't get positive change overnight. But Prime Minister Maliki in Iraq expressed an awareness of the problem, and incrementally some steps were taken. We have seen President Karzai make the same commitments. Words do count; deeds count for more,” he said.
“I would start, if confirmed, from the assumption that we do have partners in the Afghan government; that is certainly what I hear in my consultations. Effective gubernatorial appointments in the provinces, some increasingly effective members of the Karzai Cabinet -- that's a critical part of capacity building and transition. I would see that as, again, a key responsibility to help them develop that capacity,” Crocker said.
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