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Richard Holbrooke: Goodwill Ambassador

17/06/2009

I‘m not opposed to Richard Holbrooke touring a refugee camp. Every little bit helps in terms of boosting America’s image in Pakistan right now. And I’m heartened to read things like the following:

In meetings with Pakistan’s government, military, judiciary and political opposition leaders, he pressed the message that getting the refugees back home safely was as crucial, and perhaps even more immediately important, as the ongoing military offensive. Temporary refugee camps tend quickly to become permanent, he argued. They are breeding grounds for public dissatisfaction and recruitment centers for extremists; getting people out of them is key to building confidence in the government.

But is it me or does anyone else think it’s problematic that the man responsible for America’s Afghanistan and Pakistan policy was making pit stops on his way through the camp looking for information to ‘take home to U.S. intelligence analysts and White House policymakers’. Is the U.S. mission in Pakistan that short-staffed?

Because I come pretty cheap and I’m more than happy to go traipsing around the country-side asking people about how the Taliban recruits in their village if that’ll free up his time for policy-making and stuff.

Also, I understand building rapport with an interview subject can be difficult, but talk about an awkward moment:

Holbrooke asked some questions about the Taliban but got few answers. ‘Are these all your children?’ he asked with a smile. Yes, Khan said, he had nine.

‘Your daughter is beautiful,’ Holbrooke continued, nodding toward a young woman who sat quietly at the edge of the family. Her head was covered in a royal-blue scarf that revealed only her stunningly dark eyes.

‘That’s not my daughter,’ Khan said abruptly. After an awkward silence, the woman explained that she was a Pakistani police officer. It was unclear whether she was there to protect Holbrooke from the refugees, or to monitor what they told him.

In other news, Islamabad is going ahead and wading into S. Waziristan. For the record, not much has changed in terms of my view about this since yesterday.