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
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