An American troubleshooter, who played a major role in ending the bloody war in Balkans, Richard Holbrooke's long diplomatic career came to an untimely end before he could seek an end to 'mother of all crisis'- the Afghan imbroglio, which has defied the British and the Russians.
A hard-nosed diplomat Holbrooke's death from a heart ailment comes at a critical time for the US' war against terrorism, with Washington's military and diplomatic campaign to make Kabul and Islamabad to work together against the resurgent al-Qaeda and Taliban poised delicately.
Labelled "a towering figure in American foreign policy and a critical member of my Afghanistan and Pakistan team" by President Barack Obama, Holbrooke's untimely death comes as America is pushing Pakistan to take action against militant groups operational on its soil.
Dubbed the "bulldozer" for his hard charging style, Holbrooke, 69, browbeat and cajoled the nationalist leader of former Yugoslavia until he succeeded in forging a peace deal in Balkans in November 1995 in Dayton in US.
The 'Balkan peacemaker' as he was called by the US media, Holbrooke, American sources said faced stunning complexity in Afghanistan and Pakistan: how to bring stability to a tinderbox of ethnic, tribal, regional conflicts, coping with corrupt governments, a rigged elections, a rampant narcotics trade, nuclear weapons in Pakistan and the presence of al-Qeada and world's most wanted terrorist Osama-bin Laden in the untamed tribal borderlands.
But in his new avatar as Obama's special envoy to seek an end to war in Afghanistan, Holbrooke changed his style to use soft diplomacy with the Pakistani military high command and civilian rulers to make them embark on a hard push against Taliban and al-Qeada.
Initially, the Obama administration hoped his remit could include India. The idea was that Holbrooke could help do the same over the Kashmir issue that divides India and Pakistan.
But India balked at being lumped into the "AfPak" region, a neologism which reflected Obama's belief that the US can't solve the Taliban problem in Afghanistan without also combating militancy in Pakistan. New Delhi also opposed any foreign intervention over Kashmir.
The Obama Administration's point man for Afghanistan and Pakistan is said to be one of the best ever US diplomat who tirelessly and aggressively presented the strong voice of American diplomacy.
Holbrooke Dies Seeking to End Afghan Imbroglio
Lalit K Jha/Washington
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