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U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan to leave post early

No reason is given for the decision by Ryan Crocker, who also served as envoy to Iraq.

May 23, 2012|By Laura King, Los Angeles Times
  • Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, is leaving the post a year ahead of schedule.
Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, is leaving the post a year… (Johannes Eisele / AFP/Getty…)

KABUL, Afghanistan — Ryan Crocker, a respected diplomat who came out of retirement to become the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, is leaving his post this summer, a year ahead of schedule.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Mark Thornburg on Tuesday confirmed Crocker's plan to depart. Rumors had swirled during the weekend summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Chicago, which Crocker attended.

The 62-year-old Crocker had served as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, taking the diplomatic helm there during a crucial period, from 2007 to 2009, that coincided with a sharp increase in U.S. troop levels to tamp down escalating violence. He arrived in Afghanistan last July.

The ambassador's reasons for leaving the Kabul post were not disclosed, but a diplomatic associate cited personal considerations. As late as Tuesday morning, the embassy was refusing to comment on "personnel matters."

A likely candidate to succeed Crocker is James Cunningham, already in the Afghan capital as a diplomat serving under Crocker.

Crocker came to Kabul at roughly the same time as Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, and it had been hoped that the team could remake the troubled American relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and preside over a period of drawdown after last year's American troop buildup.

However, U.S.-Afghan relations remained rocky for much of his tenure.

Though Crocker forged a cordial relationship with Karzai, this year has been marked by a series of highly fraught incidents involving U.S. troops, including the accidental burning of copies of the Koran at an American base and a U.S. Army sergeant's alleged shooting rampage outside his base in Kandahar province, in which he has been charged with 17 counts of murder.

laura.king@latimes.com

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