The Cable

Eide meets with Clinton and Holbrooke after disparaging the surge

Kai Eide, the recently ousted head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, paid a visit to the State Department Thursday morning.

Eide's contract wasn't renewed following a very public fracas with his second in command, Peter Galbraith, over how to handle the widespread fraud in the recent reelection of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Galbraith accused Eide of having him fired for speaking out about the fraud. Eide himself may also been cashiered for being seen as too close to Karzai.

Apparently a little bitter, in his parting words to the U.N. in New York Wednesday, Eide took a broad swipe at the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan, warning of a military-focused strategy and urging international forces in Afghanistan not to expand the surge into new civilian areas.

Via the fine UN Dispatch blog, Eide said:

The military surge must not be allowed to undermine equally important civilian objectives and the development of such a politically driven strategy. It must not lead to an accelerated pressure for quick results in governance and economic development efforts, which could divert resources from a long-term approach to civilian institution building and economic growth. Furthermore, it must not lead the military to expand their engagement into key civilian areas, such as those I just mentioned. That could result in a situation where the international community becomes more entrenched rather than a situation where the Afghans are more empowered.

So what was Eide's message when he met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Representative for Af-Pak Richard Holbrooke this morning in Foggy Bottom? Apparently it was about peeling off some of the Taliban through some sort of political engagement.

"There isn't any question that our policy has to include an opportunity for those people fighting with the Taliban to rejoin the political process," Holbrooke told an audience at the Brookings Institution Thursday. "I would estimate that 60 to 70 or more percent of those people fighting with the Taliban are not ideologically supportive of al Qaeda at all and are not necessarily supportive of the Taliban supreme leadership."

Clinton acknowledged the need to start separating the die-hard Taliban from the hangers-on in her July speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, but no real engagement is happening, at least that we know of. Holbrooke said the idea existed on paper but never got any real traction.

The closest thing publicly announced was a conference in Tokyo set up by Japanese parliamentarians last November, in which Afghan government representatives discussed Taliban engagement with a range of international representatives.

Also at Brookings, Holbrooke denied, again, that he is somehow secretly working on the Kashmir issue or dealing with India policy in any way, as is rumored around Washington.

"I am not negotiating issues between India and Pakistan," he said. "It's not my job nor would it be productive if I were to undertake it."

SHAH MARAI/Stringer

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