We, like many others around the world, mourn the death of Amb. Richard Holbrooke, a towering intellect and force for good who brought peace to the Balkans, among his many other achievements, and whose final mission was to bring lasting stability to Afghanistan and Pakistan. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and to his many friends and colleagues. — The Editors of the AfPak Channel.
Event notice: Today at 12:15pm EST in DC, please join the New America Foundation’s Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative for a discussion of Nelly Lahoud’s new book, The Jihadis’ Path to Self-Destruction. Details and RSVP here.
A fallen giant
Amb. Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, passed away last night after falling ill on Friday and having surgeries over the weekend to treat a torn aorta (NYT, WSJ, CNN, Tel, AJE, Times, AFP, ABC, LAT, FP, Pajhwok, Tolo). Amb. Holbrooke, 69 and best known for brokering the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the war in Bosnia, is described variously as a "hard-nosed negotiator who seemed to achieve results by sheer force of will," a "brilliant, sometimes abrasive infighter [who] used a formidable arsenal of facts, bluffs, whispers, implied threats and, when necessary, pyrotechnic fits of anger to press his positions," "one of the preeminent diplomats of his generation," and "a towering, one-of-a-kind presence who helped define American national security strategy over 40 years and three wars by connecting Washington politicians with New York elites and influential figures in capitals worldwide."
According to family members, Amb. Holbrooke’s last words were to his Pakistani surgeon as he was being sedated for surgery: "You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan" (Post). World leaders from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the U.S., Germany, Sweden, Britain, and others have offered sympathies and remembrances (Post, CNN). One of his Amb. Holbrooke’s deputies, Frank Ruggiero, will be filling the post on an acting basis (LAT, FT).
The Afghan war review
U.S. President Barack Obama will make a statement Thursday about the results of his administration’s Afghanistan war strategy review (AP, AP). The review is expected to express confidence that Afghanistan’s security forces will be able to take the lead by 2014, note progress in areas of Afghanistan, and state concern about Pakistan’s efforts to tackle militants in its northwest.
Karen DeYoung discusses the void left by the death of Amb. Holbrooke, who directed the civilian side in the Afghan war strategy, assessing that, "As the glue that held the enterprise together, his absence is likely to increase the already formidable challenge the administration faces" (Post). At least 100 aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan this year, most of whom "worked for aid contractors employed by NATO countries, with fewer victims among traditional nonprofit aid groups," raising questions about whether U.S. counterinsurgency has militarized aid delivery (NYT).
Yesterday, the Karzai government awarded a "small but potentially path-breaking crude oil contract" for six months from the Angot field in the northern Afghan province of Sar-i-Pol, which could pump roughly 800 barrels a day and return some $1 million a month in revenue (Post).
The leader of the Islamist party the JUI-F, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, has just announced that he is quitting the ruling coalition government in Pakistan after Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani fired the science and technology minister, Azam Swati, and religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi, who had been in a public feud over alleged connections to a corruption scandal involving Hajj pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia arranged by Kazmi’s ministry (Dawn, AFP, ET, ET, The News, AP, Dawn, ET, The News). The defection to the opposition leaves the U.S.-allied coalition with a small majority in Pakistan’s National Assembly; the next session of parliament begins December 20. Pakistan’s education minister Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali and labor minister Syed Khursheed Shah have taken over the religious affairs and information technology portfolios (AFP).
The U.S. consular officer in Peshawar, Elizabeth Rood, has reportedly refused to serve in Pakistan any longer after being threatened by Taliban militants (ToI, Geo). Three people, including two Afghans, were killed earlier today when gunmen opened fire on the Ghazi Baba shrine in Peshawar (Dawn, Pajhwok). And a suspected U.S. drone strike was reported in North Waziristan earlier this morning (AP, Geo, ET/AFP).
New career options
A $2 million vocational center, for men and women to study tailoring, plumbing, and car repair and funded by the Iranian government, has been inaugurated in the western Afghan province of Herat (Pajhwok). Iran is funding similar centers in Kandahar, Nimroz, and Farah.