Daniel Korski

Karzai the Envoy Slayer

Karzai the Envoy Slayer
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I have just returned from DC, where the talk of the town, or at least of the foreign policy community, is how long Richard Holbrooke has left in the Obama administration. A well-connected friend suggested The Bulldozer has, at most, two months left.

Perhaps most telling has been Holbrooke's absence in the recent efforts to persuade Hamid Karzai to accept a second round of voting in the presidential election. The Economist hailed John Kerry's impromptu diplomacy, which secured Karzai's consent and gave Holbrooke the epithet "now-absent".

Diplomats I have spoken to say President Karzai is currently refusing to see Holbrooke at all, possibly sensing a chance to divide and weaken the US players. Holbrooke was already in trouble over Peter Galbraith's dismissal from the the UN given that he had secured Galbraith's appointment in the first place.

Flattering Kerry by giving the powerful senator the diplomatic "win" that neither Holbrooke nor US ambassador Eikenberry could secure is probably part of Hamid Karzai's game. If Karzai could win a second round - the most likely outcome - and see Holbrooke off, he would be well-placed to run the Karzai II government as he sees fit.

Many people, including in the international community, would not mind seeing the back of Holbrooke. He can be imperious with allies, often adressing European foreign ministers and leaving the meeting once he has made his points. He is an compulsive spinner, always working the media to give himself positive coverage even if it means exaggerating accomplishments.

But Holbrooke has notched up important successes since his appointment, the most crucial of which has been to persuade the Pakistani authorities to take on the Pakistani Taliban. He has also moved the US away from a ruinous counter-narcotics policy.

Allowing Karzai, for the second time, to chose the envoys sent to deal with him is unacceptable - and the Obama administration should make its support for its AfPak envoy clear.