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

The Cable

Shah pledges to elevate development as he takes the helm of USAID

Rajiv Shah was officially sworn in today as USAID administrator to the raucous cheers of agency employees who filled the atrium at the Ronald Reagan office building, where many of them work.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed overwhelming praise and relief before swearing in Shah, whose nomination and confirmation were repeatedly delayed. She also gave us a few insider details about the man.

For example, did you know Shah traveled to India for exactly one day so he could propose to his wife, who was traveling there alone, at the Taj Mahal? In another example of "lengths to which Raj will go to achieve important goals," he once successfully scaled Washington's Mount Rainier.

"It combines the challenges of an unforgiving glacier with the unpredictability of an active volcano. That may be the best preparation Raj has for working in Washington these days," Clinton joked.

On Wednesday, Clinton outlined a new way forward for development policy, focusing heavily on integration and coordination between development, diplomacy, and defense. The aid community is nervous about being thrown into the sandbox with such powerful actors, but the details of that cooperation remain to be worked out.

In his remarks, Shah echoed Clinton's message.

"We can elevate development to stand with diplomacy and defense as a true pillar of our foreign policy," Shah said, "And in doing so we can build a broad political constituency, because people want to support this work, they just want to know we can do it effectively."

He also lauded "diplomats who convinced country governments to work with them and improve the human condition for large segments of their populations" as role models to emulate.

Among the attendees singled out for mention by Clinton were Senate Foreign Relations ranking Republican Richard Lugar, R-IN, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. But the biggest round of applause went to Alonzo Fulgham, who has been serving as acting director of USAID for almost a year.

Meanwhile, the development community is busy digesting Clinton's speech and contemplating what a true integration of development and diplomacy might really entail.

"Hillary made a made a clear call to bring development and diplomacy together," said one government source who works on the issue. "I think she's making at least a rhetorical case for diplomacy being defined in a different way, not being thought of as just promoting a country's foreign interest but moving toward a more development focus, which could be then a precursor to a greater merger between the two entities."

"Some of us are not sure that we completely agree with the way that is currently being defined. We see the two as being separate concepts and two very different things," the source went on. "So going forward, the question is: What does that mean?"