U.S. Afghanistan/Pakistan envoy Amb. Richard Holbrooke has asked Middle East and Islamic world scholar Vali Nasr, a professor at the Fletcher School, to serve as his senior advisor, Nasr confirms. Though best known perhaps for his scholarship on Iran and the Sunni-Shia divide, Nasr has also written about Pakistan and ethnic violence in South Asia. Asked if the move might signal that Holbrooke intends to take a regional approach that includes Afghanistan's neighbors, among them Iran, Nasr says not necessarily: "I have long running expertise on South Asia as well and was involved in campaigns as advisor on Pakistan." But it does lend that perception.
"This is good," said one Washington South Asia expert about the Nasr hire. "Vali did some work in the past on Pakistan, including a short book on [Jama 'at-i Islami] JI - Islamist party in the region. So in addition to his understanding of the wider middle east and Sunni/shi'a stuff, he has a familiarity with South Asia. Obviously Vali has spent more recent time on Iran, and that could pay off when it comes to Afghanistan regional approaches."
"I don't know about regional," another Washington South Asia expert said, "but it signals that [Holbrooke] has identified a very knowledgeable person."
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.