Published: Apr 08, 2013 5:26 PM EDT
Updated: Apr 08, 2013 5:43 PM EDT

NAPLES, Fla.- A former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan is sharing his thoughts on the country's future, and this weekend's deadly attacks. Ryan Crocker spoke to hundreds of people in Collier County today.

The Naples Council on World Affairs invited the former ambassador to speak on Middle East affairs and how they impact our country.

Crocker says he's guarded, but optimistic about Afghanistan's future, as the U.S. gets ready to end its combat mission in the country at the end of 2014. "We may have a long term much reduced military presence for special missions, we'll see," he says. He says the country is a work in progress, but will always need financial help. "We can do that now at a tiny fraction of what we've been doing for the last decade plus, as long as we lead by example and put the arm to our international partners to see that they follow. But it will ultimately come down to American leadership."

His talk follows the deadliest weekend for Americans in Afghanistan in months. "It represents and reflects the risks in a country where your enemy never has to face you. He can simply sneak in, bury an explosive device in the road and wait for someone to roll over it-could be an American convoy, a governor's convoy like in this case or a school bus," he says.

Crocker says he enjoyed speaking to the Naples crowd and was impressed with people's knowledge and interest in foreign affairs. "I'd like to think I'm doing my small bit for Americans who often don't think about international affairs. Ya know we should. If we don't, we may pay a price just as we did with 9/11."

Crocker believes our country should have declared war following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He says, "we were going to carry on the American way of life on one hand, and on the other we would do the needful in Afghanistan and later in Iraq and that may have been the sound decision at the time, but these are long wars and people don't understand why we're in them, in part because they're not asked to do anything to contribute to the prosecution. There are a lot of ways we could have gotten everyone involved to know we're in this together."