At State, Holbrooke Says New US Afghan Team Strong

July 13, 2010

Fifteen months ago, the world had never heard the term ‘SRAP.’ In the city with the self-proclaimed worst acronyms, from MANPADS (man portable air defense system) to MINUSTAH (English translation: UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti), SRAP, or Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, took some time to catch on. But now, in addition to the US’s venerable (or wounded, however you look at it) Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, there are now 35 international SRAP counterparts. This development over the past year and a half not only calls to attention the increased focus on the Civ-Mil cooperative efforts in the region, but also to the resurgent, and I argue, continually strong diplomat position of Ambassador Holbrooke.

Although recently described as a “wounded animal” in the obviously contentious Rolling Stone piece documenting 10-days with then ISAF and US Forces-Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the forever strong-willed, if not tired, Amb. Holbrooke painted a picture of a newly strengthened US team working on Afghanistan and Pakistan. After first playfully catching State Department Spokesman and Assistant Secretary PJ Crowley for his “AfPak” faux pas, Holbrooke set out to laud his current and past team associates. On newly minted ISAF commander Petraeus, he said that “David Petraeus is one of the most extraordinary people to wear a uniform that I’ve ever known” and that his transition into the position has been “seamless.” He also pointed out that General Petraeus is just as committed to the Civilian-Military cooperative effort at General McChrystal was, all without even evoking the former Commander’s name.

On derogatory comments made by current JFCOM and future CENTCOM Commander General Mattis on Afghan people, Holbrooke’s first response was, “He’s a Marine, right?” Later, when asked to remind the press what was said in the RS article, Holbrooke joked to the premier AP reporter at State, “Don’t you have to be accredited to be here?”

The only point on which Holbrooke seemed to call into question the strength of the current team is in the recent loss of Jack Lew, current Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources slated to take over the OMB from Peter Orzag. On this point, Holbrooke stated that his leaving “leaves enormous shoes to fill” but reiterated that his new role at OMB will allow him to place a heavier emphasis on the region’s need in the overall budget.

The combination of friendly derision and a strong handle on the crowd is the reason why this reporter always enjoys a stateside visit from the US SRAP. And although the strength of his position has been questioned in the past, I will agree with other colleagues in that it seems as though now, at least, he and his partners are a good position to go forward.


  1. thank you for this article. The Richard Holbrooke interview Rachel did was the best I have seen on the war in Afghanistan and gives me hope again but then I wondered about Holbrooke and the article in RS. Who is right? How can I an ordinary American citizen who tries to stay informed, wants the “truth” or at least a non-partisan view on current ideas, events on the ground, why the US needs to continue with this effort, etc. I learned some of it today from you and Rachel Maddow in her interview with Holbrook. Thank you for your part.

  2. Today’s Rachel Maddow Show preshow reading comes courtesy of Lauren McGaughy, a reporter for the Asahi Shimbun America: http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/07/13/4670240-preshow-homework-meet-richard-holbrooke-a-center-of-the-universe#comments

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