President Barack Obama’s administration on Thursday named special emissaries to deal with two major global security challenges: West Asia and Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who brokered the Northern Ireland peace agreement, will be special envoy for West Asia peace. Former UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who worked out a peace agreement for Bosnia, will serve as special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement on her first day at the department with Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden by her side.
Describing Afghanistan and Pakistan as the central front in America’s struggle against terrorism and extremism, Obama said, “We must understand that we cannot deal with our problem in isolation. There is no answer in Afghanistan that does not confront the Al Qaeda and Taliban bases along the border. And there will be no lasting peace unless we expand spheres of opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
He warned that the situation is perilous and progress will take time. “My administration is committed to refocusing attention and resources on Afghanistan and Pakistan and to spending those resources wisely. And that’s why we are pursuing a careful review of our policy,” he said.
“We will seek stronger partnerships with the governments of the region, sustained cooperation with our NATO allies....”
Obama reiterated America’s commitment to Israel’s security. But, he said, “just as the terror of rocket fire aimed at innocent Israelis is intolerable, so too is a future without hope for the Palestinians.”
Both the envoys will report to Clinton.
Hillary calls Zardari
Before making the announcement Clinton spoke on the phone with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
Pakistani embassy spokesman Nadeem Kiyani welcomed Holbrooke’s appointment. “He is an experienced diplomat. He will be able to advance the cause of peace and stability,” Kiyani told HT. There was speculation that Holbrooke’s brief would include India, but that has been belied. “There was never any intention to have him focus on India. It was a conscious decision to put him to work on Afghanistan,” said Teresita C. Schaffer, director, at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.