Posts Tagged ‘ Secretary of State ’

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.

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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.

Cutting Hillary Clinton Some Slack

By Mosharraf Zaidi for The News International

Poor Americans. This is the fellow that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has to stand beside as she tries to squeeze more juice out of a Kerry-Lugar Bill that had its lifeblood squeezed out of it last year by the Pakistani establishment, when it first became US law. The frustration from that reaction still riles the Americans. So much so that Hillary Clinton, who is a role model and an inspiration, can’t seem to let go. On every trip she reproduces a Bin Laden outburst that is militarily and strategically irrelevant for the US, but that serves as an enduring cancerous tumour for America’s public diplomacy goals in Pakistan.

Still. Mrs Clinton needs to be cut some slack. Her tireless advocacy for health care around the world, and her enduring compassion for South Asians — Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Muslims, Hindus, men, children, and most of all, women — is singularly unique among either Democrats or Republicans.

The western media seems as fabulously smitten by Mrs Clinton as I am. The wires, the newspapers and the electronic media all reported Mrs Clinton’s announcement of the allocation of $500 million worth of projects as headline news, when really, it represents the fulfilment of only one-third of Kerry-Lugar-Berman’s sacred covenant with the Pakistani people. One of the most telling things about that covenant? It was signed by the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. It was, in short, a covenant between the US government and the American people, with the US government acting as a proxy for the Pakistani people.

Perhaps now Pakistanis can better understand the frustration of the John Kerrys, the Hillary Clintons and the Richard Holbrookes of the earth. Top US policymakers have fought for over two years to win the Kerry-Lugar Bill. Since then, two things have kept that money from flowing into Pakistan. The first is Mr Holbrooke’s decision to dispense with the Clintonian (Bill, not Hill) model of US aid disbursement through large contracting firms that Americans often refer to as Beltway Bandits. That decision, while long overdue, was rushed and was made in the wrong country, at the wrong time. American development assistance, which is not routed solely through USAID, but often through half a dozen different US departments (or ministries), has been in desperate need of an overhaul for years. But to attempt to reform the instrument of aid delivery in Pakistan, at the climax of Obama’s war in Afghanistan, has been a disastrous decision. The American international aid community is so removed and so distant from the mainstream of western assistance thinking (spearheaded by the OECD and captured in the Paris Declaration) that it doesn’t quite know how to deal with large sums of money without the Beltway Bandits. This has meant that the Kerry-Lugar money has been parked in Washington DC, with a clear destination, but no vehicle to take it there.

The second thing that has kept the Kerry-Lugar money from being spent is the government of Pakistan itself. Pakistan has no clarity whatsoever about what its development priorities are. It required the intervention of the military chief back in March to summon the federal secretaries to begin to articulate a wishlist of pet projects this government would like to see come to fruition. Indecision and the absence of any coherent development strategy within Pakistan have meant that the US government has had to try to figure out what Pakistan wants, kind of on its own. This may seem like comedy noire, but it’s really not funny at all.

The problem with Pakistani government today is that it doesn’t enjoy the competent stability it once used to through the bureaucracy. Today’s Pakistan’s bureaucracy, while made up of individually brilliant officers, is a collection of inward-looking dinosaurs that cannot see beyond their GOR houses, their I-8 plots and their post-retirement benefits. Those officers, in years past, used to be the eyes and ears of oft-changing governments that would seek the guidance of senior bureaucrats in the federal ministries and at the provincial headquarters. While there’s been no discernable change in the quality of governance that democratically elected politicians can render, there has been a severe nosedive in the quality of officers available to either the federal or provincial governments.

Part of the reason for the exodus of top-tier officers during the Musharraf era was the curtailment of powers of district managers, under decentralised local governments. But the decentralisation argument is a red-herring for a much more fundamental shift in Pakistani bureaucracy. While being a CSP or DMG officer was an instrument of social mobility in the 1970s or 1980s, it is now a barrier to the personal and professional growth of officers. Many of Pakistan’s brightest officers can afford to be well-paid UN, World Bank and IMF staffers. Many others can do even better at Wall Street and on Madison Avenue. Still others can be brilliant academics. Across the board, since 1999 we have seen exactly this. An exodus of top-shelf talent that might have been able to deal with rents, with incompetence, and with the heat, but not with the disrespect that the military and political class have for educated Pakistanis in the employ of the government of Pakistan.

So how does all this relate to Mrs Clinton’s troubles in Pakistan? Simple. No matter how democratically legitimate, when the blind lead the blind, there is a problem of vision. Pakistani politicians are so disconnected from any kind of global narrative that it will be a generation before we produce a Chidambaram, a Krishna or a Mukherjee that can win elections without the help of their gaddi (see: Shah Mehmood Qureshi), or the kindness of the Arbab Ghulam Rahims of the world (see: Shaukat Aziz). The nauseating outburst of the foreign minister on Friday was a demonstration that winning an election does not enable you to win an argument. In short, Pakistan’s current political class cannot muster politically legitimate actors that are also competent at statecraft.

Enter the advisory class. This is where the Husain Haqqanis, the Shaukat Tarins and the Dr Hafeez Shaikhs enter the fray. No fake degrees here. Only pedigree. Their problem is of an entirely different nature. They don’t have any stake in Pakistani politics — they enter as unknowns at the thaana kuthchehri and galli-mohalla level, and they leave as unknowns at the thaana kuthchehri and galli-mohalla level. They can talk about all the right kinds of reform, but they can’t deliver. More worryingly, their reform-speak is often deluded, because it is devoid of any political rigour. “Let’s clip military powers by marketing bold ideas in Washington DC, instead of Rawalpindi.” Well. We’ve seen how that has turned out. “Let’s raise taxes!” Sure. Because nobody else has ever thought of that! “Let’s improve education.” Sure. Because it takes genius to figure out that education is a problem. Advice that is anchored in Rubinomics and Bretton Woods theology has been failing Pakistan for the entire duration of Pakistan’s lifetime. This should hardly be a surprise. It never works anywhere.

And that is why Shah Mehmood Qureshi is wrong, again. Perceptions won’t change. $500 million worth of pet projects is a supremely sweet gesture. But even $500 billion worth of aid, delivered through Beltway Bandits, NGOs, budget support or otherwise can’t change the lives of Pakistanis. Only organic reform can achieve such noble goals. When the strategic dialogue in October picks up where this one leaves, Pakistan will still have no CT strategy, no development strategy, an inflated defence budget, no civil service reform, and no hate-speech legislation. All the money in the world can’t change that. And that’s not Hillary Clinton’s fault. That one’s on us.

Clinton Reaffirms US Commitment to Pakistan

By Ayaz Gul for The Voice of America

Concluding a second round of the so-called U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue in Islamabad, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday announced more than $500 million in several new aid programs for Pakistan.

The string of new projects unveiled by Clinton during a joint press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Memood Qureshi are designed to help Pakistan meet its energy needs and boost power generation, health and agricultural development. The programs are the first to be launched under U.S legislation passed last year tripling civilian aid for Pakistan to $7.5 billion during the next five years.

Secretary Clinton said the United States hopes the new aid will translate into real life improvements for families and communities, describing them as long-term investments in Pakistan’s future.

“We are committed to building a partnership with Pakistan that of course strengthens security and protects the people of Pakistan, but goes far beyond security,” Clinton said. “We want to help you drive economic growth and prosperity, strengthen your democratic government institutions and expand access to the tools of opportunity.”

Pakistan is playing a key role in the international fighting against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. But public opinion in Pakistan still views U.S. motives with a considerable amount of suspicion. The skepticism stems from the U.S decision to abandon support for Pakistan after Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan.

But Secretary Clinton says she can see positive change resulting from what she called deeper and broader bilateral engagements in recent years.

“We have moved beyond a standoff of our misunderstandings that were allowed to fester and not addressed… to a position where we are engaged in the most open dialogue that I think our two countries have ever had,” she said.

Foreign minister Qureshi also agreed that the enhanced U.S cooperation in various fields such as energy, power, health, agricultural and education sector is critical for changing the public perception in Pakistan.

“The opinion of the United States will change when the people of Pakistan see that their lives have changed,” said Mr. Qureshi.

Sunday, Clinton attended the signing of a landmark trade deal reached by Pakistan and Afghanistan, after years of negotiations. The United States has been pushing Afghan and Pakistani leaders to improve bilateral relations it says will contribute to the fight against extremists.

Secretary Clinton’s next stop as part of her Asia trip will be Kabul, where she will attend an international conference on Tuesday.

At the news conference in Islamabad, she reiterated that insurgents who wish to reconcile must lay down their arms, renounce partnership with al-Qaida and accept Afghanistan’s constitution.

“It seems to us that there will be some who are willing to meet those conditions and others who are not. And we would strongly advise our friends in Afghanistan to deal with those who are committed to a peaceful future where their ideas can compete in the political arena through the ballot box, not through the force of arms.”

Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks against Afghan and U.S-led coalition forces in recent months. More than 50 foreign troops have died in July while the previous month was the deadliest for international forces since the war against Taliban and its allies began nine years ago.

Clinton, With Initiatives in Hand, Arrives in Pakistan

By Mark Landler for The New York Times

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived here Sunday for high-level deliberations with Pakistani leaders, the latest in a series of encounters that the Obama administration hopes will chip away at decades of suspicion between Pakistan and the United States.

Hillary Rodham ClintonMrs. Clinton will announce a raft of initiatives to help Pakistan in public health, water distribution and agriculture, to be funded by $500 million in American economic aid. Among other things, the United States will build a 60-bed hospital in Karachi and help farmers export their mangoes.

Yet these projects, however beneficial to this economically fragile country, do not disguise several nagging sources of friction between the two sides. American officials still question Pakistan’s commitment to root out Taliban insurgents in its frontier areas, its motives in reaching out to war-torn Afghanistan and its determination to expand its own nuclear program.

Pakistan plans to buy two nuclear reactors from China — a deal that alarms the United States because it is cloaked in secrecy and is being conducted outside the global nonproliferation regime. Administration officials said they did not know if Mrs. Clinton planned to raise the purchase.

Relations could be further tested if the Obama administration decides to place a major Pakistani insurgent group, the Haqqani network, on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Islamabad maintains ties to the group through its intelligence service, and it is seeking to exploit those connections as a way to extend its influence over Afghanistan.

For all that, tensions between the two sides have ebbed since Mrs. Clinton’s last visit here in October, when she was peppered with hostile questions in public meetings and bluntly suggested that people in the Pakistani government know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar.

“We needed to change the core of the relationship with Pakistan,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The evolution of the strategic dialogue, and the fact that we are delivering, is producing a change in Pakistani attitudes.”

Mr. Holbrooke noted a U-turn in Pakistan’s policy on issuing visas to American diplomats. For months, Pakistani officials had held up those applications, creating a huge backlog and frustrating the United States. But Pakistan issued 450 visas in the last five days, he said.

Mr. Holbrooke conceded that public-opinion polls toward the United States had yet to show much of a change. Mrs. Clinton may receive more criticism on Monday at a town-hall meeting in Islamabad. Her visit, which was not announced due to security concerns, is being conducted under tight security.

Vali Nasr, a senior advisor to Mr. Holbrooke, said it was unrealistic to expect “to change 30 years of foreign policy of Pakistan on a dime.” But he said, “On foreign policy issues, we’re seeing a lot more convergence.”

The United States is encouraged by the burgeoning dialogue between President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Pakistani leaders, including the chief of the staff of the army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Any resolution of the war, Mr. Holbrooke said, must involve Pakistan.

While American officials would like to see a more aggressive Pakistani military push in North Waziristan, the stronghold of the Haqqani network, they praise the military’s campaigns in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley, where Taliban insurgents had also made gains.

Pakistan’s battle against insurgents has exacted a fearful civilian toll. Last week, a suicide bomber killed 45 people, and injured 175, in an attack on a 1,000-year-old Sufi shrine in Lahore. Many Pakistanis blame the American-led war in Afghanistan for fomenting anti-Pakistan terrorism.

A coalition of protest groups issued a statement Sunday, timed to Mrs. Clinton’s arrival, which calls for an end to the war in Afghanistan and for Americans and Pakistanis who are involved in clandestine air strikes on Pakistani targets to be tried for war crimes.

Mrs. Clinton is to meet General Kayani on Monday, after meetings on Sunday with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. She was also scheduled to meet Pakistani business leaders and the head of the Pakistani opposition, Nawaz Sharif.

Mrs. Clinton has brought a shopping-bag full of commitments for Pakistan, drawn from the $7.5 billion in non-military aid, over five years, pledged by Congress last year. The emphasis is on basic services like electricity and water, politically-charged issues in this country, particularly during the hot summer.

“Our commitment is broad and deep,” said Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, who is with Mrs. Clinton. “We will not do what we’ve done in the past.”

Administration officials said the project to upgrade Pakistan’s creaky power grid, which involves building hydroelectric dams and rehabilitating power plants, had helped reduce chronic power outages. But on the day Mrs. Clinton landed, television reports here warned of further outages.

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