Posts Tagged ‘ Richard C. Holbrooke ’

Holbrooke Mentioned Afghan War Before Surgery

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Karen DeYoung for The Washington Post

As friends and colleagues from four decades of diplomatic life reflected on the intensity of Richard C. Holbrooke’s dedication, many were not surprised to learn that concerns about the Afghanistan war were apparently among his final thoughts.

After Holbrooke’s death Monday, The Washington Post, citing his family members, reported that the veteran diplomat had told his physician just before surgery Friday to “stop this war.”  But Tuesday, a fuller account of the tone and contents of his remarks emerged.

As physician Jehan El-Bayoumi was attending to Holbrooke in the emergency room at George Washington University Hospital, she told him to relax and asked what she could do to comfort him, according to an aide who was present.

Holbrooke, who was in severe pain, said jokingly that it was hard to relax because he had to worry about the difficult situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

El-Bayoumi, an Egyptian American internist who is Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s physician, replied that she would worry for him. Holbrooke responded by telling her to end the war, the aide said.

The aide said he could not be sure of Holbrooke’s exact words. He emphasized Tuesday that the comment was made in painful banter, rather than as a serious exhortation about policy. Holbrooke also spoke extensively about his family and friends as he awaited surgery by Farzad Najam, a thoracic surgeon of Pakistani descent.

Holbrooke’s statement was seized upon quickly by critics of the Afghan war debate, some of whom interpreted it as a clarion call to end the conflict. Others viewed his comment as a last-breath disavowal of the Obama administration’s war policy, which has involved a troop surge – which Holbrooke publicly supported – to combat the Taliban. But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley cast Holbrooke’s words simply as “humorous repartee.”

Crowley said the comment “says two things about Richard Holbrooke in my mind. Number one, he always wanted to make sure he got the last word. And secondly, it just showed how he was singularly focused on pursuing and advancing the process and the policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to bring them to a successful conclusion.”

Holbrooke’s deputy, Frank Ruggiero, has been named to fill his post as special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan in an acting capacity, Crowley said, adding that no significant move had been made to select a permanent replacement.

Richard Holbrooke: The Death of a Peacemaker

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

President George H.W. Bush once described him as the “most persistent advocate I’ve ever run into.” President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, died earlier today after complications from heart surgery. He was a gifted diplomat and a tough negotiator who was considered one of the superstars of international diplomacy. Richard Holbrooke died Monday evening at George Washington University Hospital after doctors had performed emergency surgery Saturday to repair a tear in his aorta, the largest artery in the human body responsible for carrying blood from the heart to all parts of the body.

Described only days ago by President Obama as a “towering figure in American diplomacy,” Holbrooke was a career diplomat who started his career in 1962 as an officer during the Vietnam War where he initially worked at the US Agency of International Development. He continued to work on Vietnam issues during the war under President Lyndon B. Johnson and was a part of the delegation that presided in Paris for the peace negotiations to end the war. He also served as the director of the Peace Corps in Morocco in the early 1970’s as well as the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Carter administration. He was in charge of US ties with China when relations between the two countries were “normalized” in late 1978.

Later in his career, he also held senior positions at a few prestigious Wall Street firms before returning to diplomacy under the Clinton administration. During this time he was credited with his most illustrious achievement to date when he helped orchestrate the Dayton peace agreement which ended the horrific war and genocide in Bosnia. He later went on to write a memoir titled “To End a War” and become somewhat of a celebrity in the Balkans, and is widely believed to have become the Secretary of State under Hillary Clinton if she had won. He also went on to serve as the US ambassador to Germany as well as the United Nations under President Bill Clinton before being tapped by the incoming Obama administration with the herculean task of being the special envoy of the United States to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

His last assignment was arguably his most difficult as he himself stated that “There’s no Slobodan Milosevic. There’s no Palestinian Authority. There is a widely dispersed group of people that we roughly call the enemy. There’s also al Qaeda, with which there’s no possibility of any discussion at all.” He mentioned that in the AfPak region, (a term he is credited with having coined), there are a range of militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and that “an expert could add another 30.”

Such was the difficulty of his last assignment that some close to him are speculating whether the high level of stress and travels associated with shuttling between Washington, Kabul and Islamabad might have been a factor in causing a tear in his aorta. Certainly the complex and high strung meetings with Karzai and Zardari as well as the delicate balancing acts of diplomacy along with military operations in a region of the world described as “the most dangerous in the world” possibly took a toll on his health.

But to those that knew Richard Holbrooke, he was a man capable of taking on and winning the challenges of this and any difficult assignment as he had done so many times in his career. A New York Times reporter once wrote “if you want somebody to pull the trigger, or close a deal, think Holbrooke.”

Tonight in Washington DC, President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and the thousands of employees of the US State Department mourn the death of this icon of American diplomacy and celebrate his lifelong service to the United States and the American people in search of peace in troubled spots the world over. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, a job vacancy has sadly opened up in the dangerous AfPak region of the world for an assignment that no one is capable of fulfilling quite like Mr Holbrooke. For the sake of the success in the Afghan war, peace and stability in Pakistan and securing America’s vital national interests in the region and around the world, let us hope that his successor will be half as capable a diplomat and negotiator as the late Richard C. Holbrooke, truly a giant of American diplomacy.

Manzer Munir, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

Meeting Pakistanis, U.S. Will Try to Fix Relations

By Mark Landler and Eric Schmitt for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — As Pakistani civilian and military leaders arrive here this week for high-level meetings, the Obama administration will begin trying to mend a relationship badly damaged by the American military’s tough new stance in the region.

Among the sweeteners on the table will be a multiyear security pact with Pakistan, complete with more reliable military aid — something the Pakistani military has long sought to complement the five-year, $7.5 billion package of nonmilitary aid approved by Congress last year. The administration will also discuss how to channel money to help Pakistan rebuild after its ruinous flood.

But the American gestures come at a time of fraying patience on the part of the Obama administration, and they will carry a familiar warning, a senior American official said: if Pakistan does not intensify its efforts to crack down on militants hiding out in the tribal areas of North Waziristan, or if another terrorist plot against the United States were to emanate from Pakistani soil, the administration would find it hard to persuade Congress or the American public to keep supporting the country.

“Pakistan has taken aggressive action within its own borders. But clearly, this is an ongoing threat and more needs to be done,” the State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, said Monday. “That will be among the issues talked about.”

The Pakistanis will come with a similarly mixed message. While Pakistan is grateful for the strong American support after the flood, Pakistani officials said, it remains frustrated by what it perceives as the slow pace of economic aid, the lack of access to American markets for Pakistani goods and the administration’s continued lack of sympathy for the country’s confrontation with India.

Other potentially divisive topics are likely to come up, too, including NATO’s role in reconciliation talks between President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Pakistani officials say they are nervous about being left out of any political settlement involving the Taliban.

Still, in a relationship suffused by tension and flare-ups — most recently over a NATO helicopter gunship that accidentally killed three Pakistani soldiers and Pakistan’s subsequent decision to close a supply route into Afghanistan — this regular meeting, known here as the strategic dialogue, serves as a lubricant to keep both countries talking.

At this meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will formally introduce the new American ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter. Mr. Munter, who recently served in Iraq, replaces Anne W. Patterson, who just wrapped up her tour of duty in Islamabad.

“No country has gotten more attention from Secretary Clinton than Pakistan,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan’s delegation will be led by its foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, but much of the attention will be on another official, the military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who is viewed by many as the most powerful man in Pakistan.

White House and Pentagon officials said one immediate goal of this meeting was to ease the tensions that led Pakistan to close the border crossing at Torkham, halting NATO supplies into Afghanistan. Officials on both sides said that acrimony from the border flare-up had already receded, soothed by the multiple apologies that American officials made to Pakistan last week.

Last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that General Kayani had assured him that Pakistan’s army would tackle the North Waziristan haven, but on Pakistan’s timetable. In an interview, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said, “Our American partners understand that we have 34,000 troops in North Waziristan. Our soldiers have been engaged in flood relief after history’s worst floods. It is not a question of lack of will.”

The new security pact would have three parts: the sale of American military equipment to Pakistan, a program to allow Pakistani military officers to study at American war colleges and counterinsurgency assistance to Pakistani troops.

Currently, the United States spends about $1.5 billion a year to provide this same assistance, but it is doled out year by year. The new agreement, if endorsed by Congress, would approve a multiyear plan assuring stability and continuity in the programs, although Congress would continue to appropriate the financing on a yearly basis. “This is designed to make our military and security assistance to Pakistan predictable and to signal to them that they can count on us,” said a senior official.

At the last dialogue in Islamabad in July, Mrs. Clinton presented more than $500 million in economic aid, including plans to renovate hospitals, upgrade hydroelectric dams, improve water distribution and help farmers export mangoes. But the floods upended those plans, and officials said they now planned to redirect funds to more urgent needs.

This week’s meeting will also be shadowed by a new eruption of political instability in Pakistan: the government of President Asif Ali Zardari is locked in a confrontation with the Supreme Court over the court’s demand that senior ministers be fired on corruption charges. Analysts said they were less worried about the atmospherics than the underlying differences in perspective. The administration’s public contrition for the cross-border attack has largely resolved that issue, said Daniel S. Markey, senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

But Mr. Markey said he saw potential friction stemming from the American openness to reconciliation with the Taliban. With the United States facilitating rather than guiding the talks, he said, there could be poor coordination between the Afghans, NATO and others — all of which would rattle the Pakistanis.

“Washington is opening the door to a range of negotiations with groups that it has discouraged Pakistan against working with in the past,” he said. “This sends a mixed signal, and cannot help but encourage hedging on Islamabad’s part.”

Another potential bone of contention is one of President Obama’s nuclear objectives: a global accord to end the production of new nuclear fuel. Pakistan has led the opposition to the accord. And without its agreement, the treaty would be basically useless.

Mr. Qureshi blamed the United States for the situation, saying Washington signed a civilian nuclear accord with India that discriminated against Pakistan. “You have disturbed the nuclear balance,” he said in a recent interview in New York, “and we have been forced to develop a new strategy.”

U.S. Strategy in Pakistan Is Upended by Floods

By Mark Landler for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The floods in Pakistan have upended the Obama administration’s carefully honed strategy there, confronting the United States with a vast humanitarian crisis and militant groups determined to exploit the misery, in a country that was already one of its thorniest problems.

While the administration has kept its public emphasis on the relief effort, senior officials are busy assessing the longer-term strategic impact. One official said the disaster would affect virtually every aspect of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan, and could have ripple effects on the war in Afghanistan and the broader American battle against Al Qaeda.

With Pakistan’s economy suffering a grievous blow, the administration could be forced to redirect parts of its $7.5 billion economic aid package for Pakistan to urgent needs like rebuilding bridges, rather than more ambitious goals like upgrading the rickety electricity grid.

Beyond that, the United States will be dealing with a crippled Pakistani government and a military that, for now, has switched its focus from rooting out insurgents to plucking people from the floodwaters. The Pakistani authorities, a senior American official said, have been “stretched to the breaking point” by the crisis. Their ragged response has fueled fears that the Taliban will make gains by stepping in to provide emergency meals and shelter.

“It certainly has security implications,” said another official who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal policy deliberations. “An army that is consumed by flood relief is not conducting counterinsurgency operations.”

On Thursday, the United Nations will convene a special meeting devoted to the floods, hoping to galvanize what has been a lackluster global response. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to announce that American public aid has surpassed $100 million, an official said.

“We’re obviously not oblivious to the political and strategic implications of this catastrophe, but right now, we are fully focused on the emergency relief effort and trying to get a good assessment of the needs,” said the administration’s special representative to the region, Richard C. Holbrooke.

Noting that several weeks remain in the monsoon season, Mr. Holbrooke said, “Worse may be yet to come.”

The disaster comes after a period in which the administration seemed to have made strides in repairing the American relationship with Pakistan. Mrs. Clinton visited Islamabad in July with a long list of pledges, including the upgrading of several power plants and a plan to promote Pakistani mangoes. Now, these projects seem almost beside the point.

“Before, there were power plants in need of refurbishment,” said Daniel S. Markey, senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Now there are power plants underwater.”

In recent days, the United States has sent 15 helicopters, rescuing nearly 6,000 people. On Wednesday, military cargo planes delivered 60,000 pounds of food and other relief supplies, bringing total deliveries to 717,000 pounds. The speed and scale of the effort, officials in both countries said, have helped bolster the checkered American image in Pakistan.

In another hopeful sign, officials said Pakistan and India had been in close touch about the floodwaters, some of which are flowing into Pakistan from India. Such communication, between historic archenemies, could augur reduced tension in other areas, one of the officials said.

Against that, however, are the staggering dimensions of the disaster. A senior Pakistani official told the administration on Tuesday that the next flood surge was likely to inundate much of Punjab, the densely populated region that borders India and produces much of Pakistan’s food.

So far, this official said, the greatest damage has been in regions that are also hotbeds for Islamic insurgents, which has set back the army’s fight against extremist groups. Local governments in those places have largely collapsed, leaving the army as the only source of authority.

With 20 million people displaced from their homes, the Pakistani authorities are girding themselves for an immense migration to the major cities, which they fear could sow further instability.

“Americans have not yet registered the enormity of the crisis,” Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said in a telephone interview from Islamabad, the capital.

Pakistani and American officials said reports of hard-line Islamic charities providing relief were exaggerated. One pointed out that the floods had hurt the insurgents as well: there was a report of small arms and ammunition belonging to a militant group floating in the water.

Still, people in both countries warned that if rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts bogged down, the Taliban and other militant groups would try to take advantage of it. “The real test is, can their government provide the most fundamental services?” said an administration official.

Parallels to this crisis are hard to find. One official cited the example of the Indonesian province of Aceh, which had been racked by a three-decade insurgency fought by the separatist Free Aceh Movement. After the tsunami swept through in 2004, killing 170,000 people, the separatists and the Indonesian government quickly signed a peace treaty, in August 2005.

There are, however, big differences between a localized separatist group and an international jihadist movement.

“If the flood proves to tilt the balance of power in Pakistan, it’s more likely to tilt toward the militants than toward the government,” said Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence official who helped the administration formulate its initial policy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Already, Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, has been exposed to withering criticism at home for going on a trip to Europe during the early days of the flood. American officials said they were determined not to get drawn into the dispute, noting that in any event, Mr. Zardari had been stripped of many of his powers in a recent constitutional change.

Decisions on how the flood will affect American economic aid may be influenced by a trip to Pakistan by Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who co-sponsored the five-year nonmilitary assistance package with Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana.

Senator Kerry, accompanied by Dan Feldman, a deputy to Mr. Holbrooke, is scheduled to tour the flooded areas on Thursday. Mr. Kerry has said he is open to redirecting aid money, though some analysts said they were skeptical that Congress would approve additional financing. Military aid may also come under scrutiny, according to administration officials.

“Every dimension of our relationship — politics, economics, security — is going to see major shifts as a result of this historic disaster,” said Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the White House coordinator for Afghanistan and Pakistan. “All the tools of diplomacy have to be examined in light of this new reality.”

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