Skip to comments.The Inside Story of How the White House Let Diplomacy Fail in Afghanistan
Posted on 03/03/2013 8:56:53 PM PST by Mike Darancette
"My time in the Obama administration turned out to be a deeply disillusioning experience."
It was close to midnight on Jan. 20, 2009, and I was about to go to sleep when my iPhone beeped. There was a new text message. It was from Richard Holbrooke. It said, "Are you up, can you talk?" When I called, he told me that Barack Obama had asked him to serve as envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He would work out of the State Department, and he wanted me to join his team. "No one knows this yet. Don't tell anyone. Well, maybe your wife." (The Washington Post reported his appointment the next day.)
I first met Holbrooke, the legendary diplomat best known for making peace in the Balkans and breaking plenty of china along the way, at a 2006 conference in Aspen, Colorado. We sat together at one of the dinners and talked about Iran and Pakistan. Holbrooke ignored the keynote speech, the entertainment that followed, and the food that flowed in between to bombard me with questions. We had many more conversations over the next three years, and after I joined him on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2007, we spoke frequently by phone.
Now, making his sales pitch, Holbrooke told me that government is the sum of its people. "If you want to change things, you have to get involved. If you want your voice to be heard, then get inside." He knew I preferred to work on the Middle East and in particular Iran. But he had different ideas. "This [Afghanistan and Pakistan] matters more. This is what the president is focused on. This is where you want to be."
(Excerpt) Read more at foreignpolicy.com ...
Just can’t keep secrets anymore. Post announced next day!
IMO this is a very important article. The writer is a Clinton operative who is trying to damn Barry and praise Hilarious at every opportunity...all in preparation for her 2016 run. Hilarious must inoculate herself from all of Barry’s screw-ups both before and after she left the Administration.
Right before commenting on Benghazi killings the writer explains that during the campaign all foreign policy events were framed with political spin and damage control by hacks in the White House...which is how the “video” narrative was created. The writer fails to mention that Hilarious went along with the talking points.
Key passages from the article:
“Holbrooke never succeeded. Clinton did — but it was often a battle. It usually happened only when it finally became clear to a White House that jealously guarded all foreign policymaking — and then relied heavily on the military and intelligence agencies to guide its decisions — that these agencies’ solutions were no substitute for the type of patient, credible diplomacy that garners the respect and support of allies. Time and again, when things seemed to be falling apart, the administration finally turned to Clinton because it knew she was the only person who could save the situation.
“One could argue that in most administrations, an inevitable imbalance exists between the military-intelligence complex, with its offerings of swift, dynamic, camera-ready action, and the foreign-policy establishment, with its seemingly ponderous, deliberative style. But this administration advertised itself as something different. On the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly stressed that he wanted to get things right in the broader Middle East, reversing the damage that had resulted from the previous administration’s reliance on faulty intelligence and its willingness to apply military solutions to problems it barely understood.
“Not only did that not happen, but the president had a truly disturbing habit of funneling major foreign-policy decisions through a small cabal of relatively inexperienced White House advisors whose turf was strictly politics. Their primary concern was how any action in Afghanistan or the Middle East would play on the nightly news, or which talking point it would give the Republicans. The Obama administration’s reputation for competence on foreign policy has less to do with its accomplishments in Afghanistan or the Middle East than with how U.S. actions in that region have been reshaped to accommodate partisan political concerns.
“By September 2012, when violent anti-American protests swept the Muslim world, claiming the lives of four members of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya and dozens of demonstrators, it became clear that we had gotten the broader Middle East badly wrong.”
Lordy, lordy, these people are slow learners.
Hillary has the Herculean task of separating herself from Obama’s actions while not trashing his politics.
Check Holbrooke’s record. It is mainly failures, holding-efforts, and few lasting successes. I don’t doubt that he was an honest man, but in the foreign policy arena of the Democrats, he was just a frontman for failure.
Holbrooke was an idiot...
He was in his own mind a glorified marriage counselor, and that doesn't belong in a theater of war.
The goal of fighting is to force your enemy to submit, not to have them dictate the terms of your surrender:
In Kabul Rubin met with former Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who laid out in detail a strategy for talks: where to start, what to discuss, and the shape of the settlement that the United States and the Taliban could agree on.
Our government has the Taliban leader lay out the strategy for the talks?
Are they $*&%*% out of their minds?
I've heard of penis envy, but but I didn't know Hillary had "Manila folder & colorful pie chart envy" too.
Everyone in the office looked at him. "So who does read all this?" I asked, pointing to a huge folder on his desk. "I'll tell you who," he said. "The president reads them. He reads every folder."
All one of them? Sorry, I don't believe the guy who won't find time for an intel briefing spends copious amounts of time looking at pie charts from Gates' huge folder or reading anything therein.
Lakhdar Brahimi the man who denied that Saddam gassed Halabja http://www.freerepublic.com/^http://www.kurdishmedia.com/reports.asp?id=1964 | 4/30/04 | Ata Norie
it became clear that we had gotten the broader (fill-in-the-blank) badly wrong.
Where “we” are liberals and the policy is anything.
Thank you. The site requires a signin and I couldn’t view the rest of the article.
We never hear of Afghanistan , or Iraq anymore, not in the news. Zero is an utter disaster. And if the point of the article is to sing the praises of Clinton, then I don’t want to read it. People died needlessly on her watch and she LIED about it. That is all I need to know.
Secretary Gates was the only adult in the administration.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Obama didn’t know how to operate Excel or even the concept of a spreadsheet.
Agreed. She was an inept SOS who had no positive accomplishments.
They are using a dead man in the article as a scapegoat for the errors in order to boost her career.
(Not that I like Holbrooke either...both of them were inept).
How could any diplomacy “succeed” in Afghanistan when the country is made up entirely of (a) those who can’t wait to get the Taliban back so they can start chopping off hands again, and (b) those who are enjoying the protection of our armed services until they can steal enough to set themselves up for life?
Holbrooke never succeeded. Clinton did...”
Yep, that’s the point in the article when I started smelling a rat...
Thanks Mike Darancette.
If youd like to be on or off, please FR mail me.
The author of the FP article, Vali Nasr, makes the mistake of believing that Holbroke’s belief that diplomacy could obtain U.S. goals vis-a-vis the Taliban, even diplomacy backed by the most robust military effort that the U.S. put into Afghanistan, may have been nothing more than naive wishful thinking on the part of Mr Holbroke and Vali Nasr, they naive belief of all career diplomats - that diplomacy can resolve any conflict - it can’t.
I’m not poo poohing all the author exposes about Obama’s amatuer administration and his own arrogant haunty amatuer style of leadership. Those things are helpful, if only to remind everyone how naked the emperor really is.
However, I am not sure if one - Holbrokes naivete or Obama’s amatuer administration is, or would have worse, as far as U.S. policy in Afghanistan goes.
The author complained with the Obama’s administration ignoring that:
“the Taliban were ready for talks as early as April 2009. At that time, Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin, shortly before he joined Holbrooke’s team as his senior Afghan-affairs advisor, traveled to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. In Kabul Rubin met with former Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who laid out in detail a strategy for talks: where to start, what to discuss, and the shape of the settlement that the United States and the Taliban could agree on. Zaeef said the Taliban needed concessions on prisoners America held at Guantánamo Bay and removal of the names of some Taliban from U.S. and U.N. blacklists sanctioning terrorists.”
The author left out exactly what promises the Taliban were willing to make for the “U.S.” concessions they wanted, ignoring not only concessions they indicated they would make towards the U.S. but just as importantly what concesssions they wanted from Karzai. What the author cannot convince me is that they were willing to deny any future ambitions for, and agree to complete disarming to prevent, them from using a “peace” agreement as a waystation to their next attempt to militarily regain control in Afghanistan. Yes, the Taliban wanted and wants the U.S. out. But to what, eventual, end? I think Holbroke was naive on that.
Then we have Holbroke’s own admission that: “THE TRUE KEY TO ending the war, Holbrooke often told us, was to change Pakistan”. Well friends, there you have it; the old chicken and the egg problem. You can’t make a useless deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan, who will simply use a temporary “peace” and Pakistan sanctuaries to rearm for the next toppling of an Afghan government once U.S. forces leave, and you can’t get their Pakistan sanctuaries out of their strategic hands unless a Pakistani government opens full-fledged total war style civil war on the Taliban supporting 1/2 of the Pakistan population, which no Pakistan government is going to to. Holbroke and the author heard this truth from the Pakistanis themselves, yet they continued to promote their own careers and their own profession as able to solve the Afghan problem through diplomacy. That is itself a misreading of Afghanistan and the Taliban.
Meanwhile it is Pakistan’s nukes not the Taliban that should be the U.S. primary strategic concern in that neighborhood.