Swedish diplomat offered top U.N. post in Afghanistan

Swedish diplomat offered top U.N. post in Afghanistan

Swedish diplomat Staffan di Mistura has been offered the job as the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, replacing the recently departed Kai Eide, according to Richard Holbrooke.

Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told The Cable in a brief interview Friday that di Mistura had called him to consult with him as he considers the offer.

“I had a very good talk with him, quite a long talk, we went over every aspect of the relationship,” Holbrooke said. “He wanted to discuss how he could relate to us … I assured him that the U.S. government and the U.S. Embassy look forward to working with him [if he takes the job].”

Farhan Haq, a spokesman for the United Nations, said that no official appointment had been made and that until there was an announcement, nothing was certain.

But Holbrooke seemed confident that di Mistura would soon be named to the post, and said he is “very pleased” with the selection. “Di Mistura has the unanimous support of the U.S. government,” said Holbrooke.

From 2007 to 2009, di Mistura was the U.N.’s special representative in Iraq. He left Iraq last July to become deputy executive director of the World Food Programme.

Holbrooke said that during his time in Iraq, di Mistura earned the respect of leading U.S. national security officials including National Security Advisor Jim Jones and Central Command head Gen. David Petraeus. Di Mistura also has experience working with Karl Eikenberry, the current U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Holbrooke remembered.

Di Mistura has served in Afghanistan before, as the director of fundraising and external relations for the U.N.’s office in Afghanistan from 1988 to 1991. He has also worked for the organization in Sudan, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Sarajevo, and several other places, in addition to Iraq. (Interestingly, one of Di Misura’s deputies in Iraq was Siddharth Chatterjee, who happens to be U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon‘s son-in-law.)

Di Mistura would face close scrutiny of his ability to work with both U.S. officials in Kabul and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Eide, who was seen as too close to Karzai, left the post after a bitter feud with his former deputy, American diplomat Peter Galbraith. Galbraith was fired at Eide’s behest and subsequently accused Eide publicly of ignoring widespread election fraud perpetrated by Karzai.

The New York Times noted in an editorial last week that Ban was also considering Jean-Marie Guéhenno of France and Ian Martin of Britain for the Kabul mission.

AFP/Getty Images