U.S. Afghan policy thwarted by infighting

June 25, 2012 at 2:59 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 25 (UPI) -- Infighting within President Obama's foreign policy staff thwarted the late Richard Holbrooke's efforts to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan, a new book says.

In "Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan," Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a correspondent for The Washington Post, said that Obama shared Holbrooke's goal for a negotiated peace. But "No Drama" Obama was put off by Holbrooke's style, and top military leaders thought at the time the United States could defeat or at least diminish the Taliban on the ground. Members of the White House staff, who were comparatively new to foreign policy, did not like or trust Holbrooke, whose experience stretched back to the Vietnam War era.

Holbrooke kept his job because he had the support of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But Obama's staff undercut Holbrooke by keeping him out of an Oval Office meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and off the list when Obama traveled to Afghanistan.

Holbrooke, the State Department's point man on Afghanistan, died on Dec. 13, 2010, of a torn aorta at the age of 69. He was stricken while at work at the State Department.

"The tragedy of it all is that Richard's views about all of this stuff -- about the surge, about Pakistan and about reconciliation -- were probably closer to the president's than anyone else in the administration," Vali Nasr, a former Holbrooke senior adviser now dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told Chandrasekaran. "If the president had wanted to, he could have found a kindred spirit in Richard."

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