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World leaders converge on Washington for Holbrooke memorial

On Friday, hundreds of friends and colleagues of the recently departed Richard Holbrooke will convene to honor his career and his legacy at the Kennedy Center in Washington for an event that, just as Holbrooke was, promises to be larger than life. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will both speak at ...

Getty Images
Getty Images
Getty Images

On Friday, hundreds of friends and colleagues of the recently departed Richard Holbrooke will convene to honor his career and his legacy at the Kennedy Center in Washington for an event that, just as Holbrooke was, promises to be larger than life.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will both speak at the memorial, and former President Bill Clinton will also attend. In total, there will be three sitting heads of state in the room, 20 foreign ministers, 125 heads of diplomatic missions, and other friends of Holbrooke hailing from academia, the media, and his private life.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will come to Washington for the event and will have a bilateral meeting with Secretary Clinton as well. The meeting is meant to show solidarity between the U.S. government and Zardari, a Pakistani government official explained. Zardari has faced continued political and legal challenges and most recently the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a close ally, but continues to hold on to power.

On Friday, hundreds of friends and colleagues of the recently departed Richard Holbrooke will convene to honor his career and his legacy at the Kennedy Center in Washington for an event that, just as Holbrooke was, promises to be larger than life.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will both speak at the memorial, and former President Bill Clinton will also attend. In total, there will be three sitting heads of state in the room, 20 foreign ministers, 125 heads of diplomatic missions, and other friends of Holbrooke hailing from academia, the media, and his private life.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will come to Washington for the event and will have a bilateral meeting with Secretary Clinton as well. The meeting is meant to show solidarity between the U.S. government and Zardari, a Pakistani government official explained. Zardari has faced continued political and legal challenges and most recently the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a close ally, but continues to hold on to power.

Also in town for the event is Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who will not meet with Clinton but will give a speech on Thursday morning at the American Enterprise Institute. We’ve been told that Borjana Kristo, chairman of the rotating presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, will also attend. Among the foreign ministers attending is Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

Staffan de Mistura, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, will also be attending the memorial, a State Department official told The Cable. Holbrooke will additionally be honored by the planned attendance of a large chunk of the international network of Special Representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAPs). Holbrooke was instrumental in building this network of officials who would meet periodically to coordinate international activity regarding Afghanistan.

SRAPs are coming to Washington for Friday’s event from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Turkey, the UAE, and the United Kingdom, the State Department official said.

With all these diplomatic celebrities in one place at one time, the day is quickly evolving into a conference of sorts, with embassies around Washington scrambling to figure out which visiting leaders will be available for impromptu bilateral meetings, pull aside chats, and the like.

Holbrooke, the consummate networker, would be proud.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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