New US Afghan envoy Crocker says there's no rush for the exits

New US Afghan envoy Crocker says there's no rush for the exits

The newly appointed United States ambassador to Afghanistan said Monday there is no rush for international forces to leaved the country and cautioned on the need for a careful transition, dpa reported.

"There will be no rush for the exits," Ryan Crocker said at his swearing in ceremony held at the US embassy in Kabul, according to a statement from the embassy.

"The way we do this in the months ahead will have consequences far beyond Afghanistan and far into the future," Crocker was quoted as having said.

"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," he said.

The handover of security responsibility from international forces to Afghan forces that took place last week.

Seven areas were handed over, after almost a decade of war in Afghanistan, as a part of an effort to transfer all security responsibilities to local forces by 2014.

Last week's handover was viewed largely as symbolic event since most of the areas in questions are fairly peaceful, with Afghan forces in control already.

Crocker, a veteran diplomat, said it was time for others to step back and for Afghans to step forward.

"However, I think all of us - Americans, coalition partners, the international community, and the Afghan leadership - know that we must proceed carefully," he said.

Crocker also said the coming year would be critical in setting "the right glide path".

US President Barack Obama last month announced the withdrawal of 33,000 troops by the end of September 2012.

The Obama administration is currently replacing many of its officials in Afghanistan. Crocker replaces Karl Eikenberry as ambassador to Kabul. Eikenberry's relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai was reportedly fraught.

Last week, General John Allen replaced David Petreaus as the head of the US and NATO command. Petreaus went on to become the chief of Central Intelligence Agency, while his predecessor at the CIA Leon Panetta replaced Robert Gates as defence secretary.

Crocker is former ambassador to Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. He was the US official to reopen the US embassy in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in a US-led invasion in 2001

"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-Qaeda, and 9/11," he said.

In the aftermath of the Soviet Union withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, years of civil war between local powerbrokers and warlords followed.

Crocker also said the US would go ahead with a strategic partnership declaration, which "will codify the long term commitment of the United States to Afghanistan's success".

However, he said the US has no interest in permanent bases in Afghanistan.

"We have no interest in using Afghanistan as a platform to protect influence into neighbouring countries."

Crocker also presented his credential to Karzai Monday morning, the presidential palace said in a statement.

"After the ceremony, President Karzai and the new US ambassador met and discussed different issues related to both countries," the statement said.

At least 140,000 international soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan, of which some 97,000 are from the US, fighting a war that that will mark a decade in September.

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