After Holbrooke died suddenly, he was replaced by career diplomat Marc Grossman, who is widely considered ineffective and has only provoked back-biting from the State Department’s South and Central Asian bureau, where the assistant secretary, Robert Blake, has been largely cut out. “It’s all Holbrooke’s broken china,” says one official. The two leading figures in U.S. policy in the region, Ryan Crocker, the ambassador to Afghanistan, and Gen. John Allen, are already making plans to leave (in Crocker’s case, back to retirement, while Allen is expected to be named NATO commander in Europe). Ambassador Munter, described as increasingly agitated over the failure of U.S. policy, has been reassigned.
While Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is sometimes praised for her approach to the region, having recently proposed a “New Silk Road” to induce Pakistan and other countries to work with Afghanistan, she too is seen as someone who has been largely cut out of policymaking by the White House.
In the meantime, U.S. officials have begun to bluntly acknowledge, as never before, that Pakistan’s senior military and intelligence apparatus are supporting and funding the same jihadists who are killing U.S. and NATO soldiers—not just Americans, but also British, French, Italians, and Canadians—and endangering the United States’ 10-year, vastly expensive response to 9/11, placing the outcome of America’s longest war in danger. Even the U.S. Embassy in Kabul –“which is American soil,” U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker angrily noted in an interview -- was twice attacked by “Pakistan-based insurgents.”
Last September, outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen called the terrorist Haqqani network in Pakistan’s tribal regions, the suspected culprit behind the Kabul embassy attack, a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's ISI or intelligence service. Mullen, now retired, is said to be working on a book that will defend Holbrooke’s diplomatic efforts and criticize the Obama administration.
In recent days, Pakistan’s decision to imprison a doctor who helped the United States confirm bin Laden’s whereabouts has only highlighted the diplomatic issue.
U.S. and NATO officials remain hesitant about offending Islamabad because of a bedrock fear that, if Pakistan becomes destabilized, its nuclear arsenal could fall into the wrong hands. That caution ruled at the recent NATO summit in Chicago, where all the talk was simply about getting the Pakistanis to permit NATO the use of its overland routes in order to expedite the pullout.
Despite the rampant anti-Americanism in Pakistan, Khalilzad and other critics suggest that one alternative is to issue a “demarche” of the kind the Pakistanis have not been given since right after 9/11, when then-President Pervez Musharraf was delivered a stark choice: Support the war against the Taliban totally, or you’re through. Now Pakistan should be confronted with a clear and harsh update of that choice: confront the international community and be turned into a sanctioned pariah, like Iran, in which case the country will lose ground economically and militarily to its arch-rival India. Or, embrace fully anti-Taliban measures and be rewarded with more economic assistance, such as Clinton’s New Silk Road, which seeks to turn the region into a commercial hub once again.
“We have to be willing to escalate the pressure, which in my view has to include Pakistan’s very difficult economic circumstances,” says Khalilzad. “Today I think the Pakistanis can cover only about 10 weeks of imports. We also need to move diplomatically by engaging some key countries they rely on, like China and Saudi Arabia.”
Until he died, Marton says, Holbrooke was trying to get the administration to see the larger picture. “He was pushing reconciliation with the Taliban when no one wanted to hear about it,” she said. “He knew that ultimately they would have to come to him to negotiate.” But now negotiations are going nowhere.