WASHINGTON President Barack Obama is likely to nominate veteran diplomat Ryan Crocker as the next U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, a source familiar with the pending appointment said on Tuesday.
Crocker, one of Washington's most experienced Middle Eastern hands before he retired last year, was U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009, a period when President George W. Bush sent in a "surge" of U.S. troops.
Crocker was assigned to the American Embassy in Beirut during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the bombings of the embassy and the Marine barracks in 1983.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Crocker was the leading candidate and likely to be chosen.
The move would pair Crocker again with General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan who had served in Iraq at the same time as Crocker.
Obama has promised to begin removing some of the 100,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan this summer, a first step toward ending a war that has waning support among Americans.
A new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News this week showed that more Americans disapprove of rather than support Obama's management of the Afghanistan war.
Yet Obama, who sent an extra 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, faces a dilemma as a tenacious Taliban continues to attack local and foreign forces and the Kabul government struggles to win over Afghans wearied by decades of poverty and war.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; Editing by Eric Walsh)