Why Crocker is a no-show at Senate hearing
When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee first announced it would be holding a hearing on Wednesday into governance issues in Afghanistan, the witness list included Ryan C. Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq during the 2007-08 troop surge commanded by Gen. David H. Petraeus. With Petraeus now the top commander in Afghanistan, Crocker has emerged as the leading choice among some congressional Republicans who want the current ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl W. Eikenberry, to be replaced.
But Crocker won't be there when Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) convenes the hearing. Senior officials at the State Department objected to Crocker appearing at the same hearing with its special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The State officials argued to committee staff members that Crocker's presence on a panel following Holbrooke would undermine Eikenberry, the sources said.
Eikenberry has been criticized by some Republicans for not building closer relationships with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the previous military commander there, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and for being insufficiently supportive of McChrystal's request for more forces. Several Republican lawmakers called on President Obama to dismiss Eikenberry in the wake of Obama's firing of McChrystal last month.
Crocker's testimony had been requested by Republicans on the committee, although it received support from Democrats as well.
Kerry spokesman Frederick Jones said the panel with Crocker had to rescheduled because of a conflict on the senator's calendar. Jones said Crocker is now scheduled to testify next week.
A State Department spokesman did not respond an e-mail request for comment. Crocker also did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. In conversations since McChrystal's ouster,
Obama administration officials have bristled at the calls to replace Eikenberry and said he still enjoys the White House's support. Although the officials acknowledged problems in his relationship with McChrystal, they expressed confidence that he would forge a closer bond with Petraeus.
In an interview with The Washington Post in May, Crocker said he and Petraeus rarely differed over policy or approach and carefully calibrated their relationship with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Of McChrystal and Eikenberry, Crocker said: "They need to resolve any differences among themselves or take it back to Washington because the stakes in Afghanistan are too great not to have a unified effort."
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