US envoy Holbrooke leaves split Af-Pak legacy: Analysts
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 14, 2010, 21:31
Kabul: Calming diplomat or arrogant "bulldozer"? Afghanistan and Pakistan were quick to mourn US chief diplomat to the region Richard Holbrooke on Tuesday, but analysts described his legacy as chequered.

The 69-year-old banker, writer, diplomat and philanthropist who was regarded in Washington as a towering contemporary American statesman was responsible for coordinating the civilian aspect of US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Applying his legendary intellect and powers of persuasion to America's worst foreign quagmire, he ended controversial poppy eradication policies and reportedly helped triple US civilian officials in Afghanistan to 1,000.

The man nicknamed "The Bulldozer", who died yesterday, also had the unenviable task of pushing Kabul and Islamabad to work together to defeat al Qaeda and reverse Taliban insurgencies, despite deep distrust of each other and the US.

Yet the talents credited with winning peace in the Balkans and ending Europe's worst conflict since 1945 appeared to alienate President Hamid Karzai, the United States' mercurial ally heading a deeply corrupt administration.

His office released only a short statement saying that "while saddened by the news," Karzai saw Holbrooke as a veteran diplomat who served "greatly the government and the people of the United States".

While Islamabad paid glowing tribute to a "friend" who left "a huge vacuum" and helped improve Pakistani-US relations, Karzai's office pointedly made no mention of Holbrooke's services to Afghans.

It was an omission that exemplifies the troubles between Washington, appalled by corruption in Afghanistan, and Kabul, allergic to any suggestion of imperial lecturing, regardless of who was selected as special representative.

"The relationship between the two sides was certainly not ideal, judging by the outbursts that made their way into the media about personal disagreements," Afghan political analyst Janan Mosazai said to a news agency.

"A lot of that goes to frustrations that I think a lot of people within the US administration feel towards President Karzai's style of leadership and what he hasn't achieved in the last nine years.

"In the cultural context of Afghanistan, it is also very difficult for an Afghan, whether in or outside government, to tolerate a bullying attitude, especially from a foreigner," Mosazai said


First Published: Tuesday, December 14, 2010, 21:31

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