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Veteran South Asia hand joins Holbrooke’s team as Pakistan aid coordinator

Robin Raphel, who under the Clinton administration was the first U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, is joining Richard Holbrooke‘s team to become the coordinator for nonmilitary aid to Pakistan, State Department officials confirmed to Foreign Policy. Working out of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, Raphel will be teaming up with USAID, the ...

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Robin Raphel, who under the Clinton administration was the first U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, is joining Richard Holbrooke's team to become the coordinator for nonmilitary aid to Pakistan, State Department officials confirmed to Foreign Policy.

Working out of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, Raphel will be teaming up with USAID, the USDA, Treasury, DoD, and other assistance-implementing agencies to ensure that all programs support U.S. goals in the region, a State Department official said.

Raphel was part of a group that included Centcom commander Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Ann Patterson, and Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake, all of whom Holbrooke convened for a hush-hush, 11-hour policy discussion on Pakistan Monday at Ft. McNair, the U.S. Army base in Washington that houses the National Defense University, where Raphel was a vice president from 2000 to 2003.

Robin Raphel, who under the Clinton administration was the first U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, is joining Richard Holbrooke‘s team to become the coordinator for nonmilitary aid to Pakistan, State Department officials confirmed to Foreign Policy.

Working out of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, Raphel will be teaming up with USAID, the USDA, Treasury, DoD, and other assistance-implementing agencies to ensure that all programs support U.S. goals in the region, a State Department official said.

Raphel was part of a group that included Centcom commander Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Ann Patterson, and Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake, all of whom Holbrooke convened for a hush-hush, 11-hour policy discussion on Pakistan Monday at Ft. McNair, the U.S. Army base in Washington that houses the National Defense University, where Raphel was a vice president from 2000 to 2003.

Glamorous and blond, Raphel has something of a storied career in the vein of Charlie Wilson’s War. Appointed by former President Bill Clinton to be assistant secretary of state, Raphel started her career as a lecturer in history in Iran, worked for two years as a CIA economics analyst and then as a USAID analyst in Islamabad before going on to a 30-year career in the State Department, serving in Pakistan, London, South Africa, India, and later as U.S. ambassador to Tunisia.

Journalist Steve Coll reports in Ghost Wars that Raphel was roommates in England with Bill Clinton’s Oxford girlfriend, and she is also said by associates to be close to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and several HRC advisors, including ambassador at large for women’s issues Melanne Verveer. A former husband from whom she was then divorced, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel, was killed in a plane crash also carrying Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq in 1988.

Since retiring from the State Department in 2000, Raphel has served as coordinator for Iraq reconstruction and the deputy inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. In 2007-2008, she worked as a lobbyist and consultant for Cassidy and Associates, where Raphel was a vice president. Raphel is coming on board in a “call back” capacity, an associate said, a status for a certain rank and number of years in the Foreign Service. She couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. “She’s an inspired choice and we are pretty thrilled,” one South Asia hand said. “We wanted someone who could really handle a significant (Congress-willing) increase in civilian assistance to Pakistan.”

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Laura Rozen writes The Cable daily at ForeignPolicy.com.

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