AfPak: The Death Of Holbrooke Is Another Set Back For Obama

On Monday, Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan died; he was 69 years-old. This is precisely at a time when Washington is reviewing its strategy for the war in Afghanistan and its role in Pakistan. The death of Holbrooke constitute a substantial set back for the Obama administration, especially coming shortly after the resignation of General McChrystal over the publication of a controversial interview in Rolling Stone magazine, where the head of the military operation in Afghanistan was highly critical of the White House’s  leadership.

Richard Holbrooke, who died suddenly from a torn aorta artery, had an impressive career spanning nearly 50 years, mainly as a diplomat. Holbrooke was best known for his role, with the Clinton administration, in dealing with the crisis in former Yugoslavia during the mid 90s. Richard Holbrooke brokered the 1995 agreement which ended the three years of war in Bosnia.

According to the Washington Post, the US special envoy said some stark but truthful final words as he was brought to the operating room. “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan,” Holbrooke told his surgeon.

In his function as US special envoy, Holbrooke, who had the reputation of conducting forceful and sometime “muscular” diplomacy, had the nearly impossible task to deal with Kabul and Islamabad by pushing them to work together, despite conflicting interests, against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Richard Holbrooke’s death comes as the civilian and military leaderships in Washington are reviewing the almost decade-old allied invasion of Afghanistan. The review, scheduled to be made public next week, will evaluate if progress has been made since the Obama administration decided to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. Major changes of strategy are unlikely. During the recent NATO summit in Portugal, it was announced that despite previous promises made by President Obama to start withdrawing troops in 2011, no major troops withdrawal would take place before 2014.

The death of Holbrooke generated some comments on Shahamat, a website affiliated to the Taliban, and promoting an “Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan”. On Tuesday, Qari Yousaf Ahamadi, the spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, made a statement concerning Holbrooke’s death, and pointing to “the recent symptoms indicating that an outbreak of the same epidemic disease has started in the political and military echelons of America,” as an illustration of the United States’ failed strategy and policy in his country.

“We believe Holbrooke’s timely death could have a didactic effect on the American strategists, teaching them many things to learn. In view of the American entanglement in the aggravating swamps of Afghanistan, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan calls on the American powers-that-be to abandon their dream of military domination and colonial sway in Afghanistan. Their formulation of new military strategies will never change the imminent defeat into a victory in the country,” said Ahamadi.


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