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Holbrooke Under Consideration for South Asia Diplomatic Role

Updated 7:39 p.m.
By Michael Abramowitz and Al Kamen
President -elect Barack Obama is seriously considering giving former ambassador Richard Holbrooke a key role in handling diplomacy in south Asia, a move that would put one of America's most prominent international troubleshooters in the middle of trying to resolve the thorny and interrelated problems surrounding India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to several sources familiar with the transition.

The appointment would represent early recognition by Obama that the region poses perhaps the biggest foreign policy challenge for his incoming administration. Afghanistan has been beset by increasing violence and a resurgent Taliban, and the president-elect has promised more attention and resources for the fight there. Many foreign policy experts say Pakistan has not done enough to curb extremist activity in the regions along the Afghan border, contributing to the violence inside Afghanistan. Meanwhile, long-standing tensions between Pakistan and India have been aggravated by last week's terrorist shootings in Mumbai. Inside India, those attacks are widely blamed on Pakistan -- unfairly so, according to Pakistani officials.

The move would also represent another example of Obama's willingness to look beyond his circle of supporters to fill key posts. Holbrooke has been a long-time adviser and supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Obama's pick for secretary of state, and himself had been mentioned as a possible long-shot for the top diplomat's job before Obama named Clinton this week.

Holbrooke's hopes for a top job in the new Democratic administration initially seemed unlikely to be realized, particularly because his aggressive diplomacy and bureaucratic maneuvering had alienated some of Obama's closest advisers over the years. But his star seemed to rise again after Obama settled on Clinton to be secretary of state and gave her leeway to assemble her own team at the department.

Holbrooke is perhaps best known as the broker of the Dayton accords, which ended the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, but he has long experience across the globe, having served as assistant secretary of state in charge of East Asia policy (during the Carter administration) and in charge of Europe policy (during the Clinton administration). In recent years, he has written extensively about the war and political problems in Afghanistan, which would be a key focus of the new job.

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 2, 2008; 5:25 PM ET
Categories:  Cast of Characters  
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After Dayton, a series of articles analyzing Richard Holbrooke's record alleged to have identified a pattern. Holbrooke's deals, they said, last just long enough for t.v. cameras to roll. They leave underlying causes unaddressed, so conflict inevitably re-erupts -- but only after Holbrooke's gotten credit and international attention has moved on. Local people are left to their own devices to deal with the resulting mess. Opportunistic, short-sighted, self-serving, and cynical is the characterization of Holbrooke's record.

My question is, Is this a fair read? The story must be more complicated than that. Will someone set the record straight for Holbrooke?

Posted by: MEppinger | December 3, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Not a good idea - I worked with and knew Dick well -in No.Africa when he was "only" USIS -
He is brilliant - hard working and honest -
but tfar too abrasive to work with the VIP of asia - where I lived and worked for 7 years -
here in Paris it is thought he would be good at NATO

Posted by: clarkasc | December 3, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

"On January 11, 2001. There he said, "Iraq will be one of the major issues facing the incoming Bush administration at the United Nations." Further, "Saddam Hussein's activities continue to be unacceptable and, in my view, dangerous to the region and, indeed, to the world, not only because he possesses the potential for weapons of mass destruction but because of the very nature of his regime. His willingness to be cruel internally is not unique in the world, but the combination of that and his willingness to export his problems makes him a clear and present danger at all times." So, the Obama pick points out the deep and inbred and incestuous relationships the DC elitists have with each other. The 70's mindset is alive and well in the democrat world and I bet alot of the Obamatons are wondering what they voted for now? How could you know? I mean the media certainly never told you anything about him, and you relied on that symbolism and images borrowed from the Nazis and Stalin!

Posted by: vgailitis | December 3, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Jake D. -- I think you've answered your own question. If Obama were to take a Democratic senator from a state with a Republican governor, the said Republican governor would replace the Democratic senator with a Republican, thus lowering the total number of Democrats in the Senate. That could make it much more difficult for Democrats to get legislation passed. New York's governor is a Democrat, so he will appoint a Democrat to take her place.

Posted by: marmac5 | December 2, 2008 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Bill Clinton should be named special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He has the political clout and smarts to make a difference. And he likes to jetset with his fast business crowd. Pipelineistan is as good a place as any for them to do a deal or two.

Posted by: jrob822 | December 2, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

You're welcome. Now, I have a question: why isn't Obama selecting more DEMOCRATS from States with Republican Governors? Take Sen. Boxer or Feinstein, PLEASE!!!

Posted by: JakeD | December 2, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Jake D. That's wonderful! One characteristic that all three of the men you mentioned was a commitment to supporting all Americans, not just a favored few. Perhaps that is a characteristic that Obama shareswith the men you mentioned. BTW, I wasn't old enough to vote for Truman, but he was (and contines to be) my dad's most favorite president. My very first vote, at the age of 21, was for JFK. And I'm a native Californian, so both Pat Brown and Jerry Brown are well known to me. Thanks for the positive comment!

Posted by: marmac5 | December 2, 2008 6:27 PM | Report abuse

I voted for Harry S Truman, Pat Brown, and John F. Kennedy (all three Democrats). Is that positive enough?

Posted by: JakeD | December 2, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Jake D. -- from your many, many months of comments we have come to know and accept you for who you are -- probably a pretty nice old curmudgeon. And we know you are a conservative, either a Republican or a Libertarian, maybe even an Independent. The one thing we do know is that you don't particularly hold Demcorats favorably. So, this morning you were blasting away at the question of Obama's citizenship, and tonight you're going negative about Obama's appointments. You know, as we get older, we have a tendency to be critical of everyone and everything, if we're not careful. Now, Jake, I am a retired teacher educator, and I used to help young men and woman prepare for teaching our very youngest children. You are probably aware that some of these youngsters can be somewhat bratty at time, and my students often asked how they should approach telling parents that Jakey isn't as darling as they think he is. I used to tell them, "Think of three positive things to say about any children -- you can find at least three things to say that honestly emphazize any child's good points." Jake, I think it would be interesting for you to find three positive things to say about Obama, maybe even three more positives to say about the Democrats. You might surprise yourself -- and the rest of us!

Posted by: marmac5 | December 2, 2008 6:00 PM | Report abuse

New "Change" Same as the Old.

Posted by: JakeD | December 2, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

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