After Bucking Holbrooke's Advice On Afghanistan, Obama Invokes His Name

Dan Froomkin @ The Huffington Post - President Barack Obama asserted on Thursday that the White House's questionable assessment of progress in Afghanistan "reflect[s] the dedication of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, whose memory we honor and whose work we'll continue."

There's little doubt that the president's chief envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, who died Monday of complications from an aortic dissection, tried his damnedest to make Obama's strategy work.

But the reality is that a year ago, when Obama was choosing between escalation and deescalation in the region, Holbrooke was one of several top advisors who cautioned him that the path he ultimately chose -- sending in 30,000 more American troops -- simply could not succeed.

Behind closed doors, Holbrooke was widely known to be one of the most voluble members of a high-level faction that Obama chose to spurn.

In Obama's War, Bob Woodward writes that Holbrooke considered it a "central truth" that the war "would not end in a military victory," but rather when the warring parties were "brought together diplomatically."

Woodward also describes Holbrooke's conclusion that escalation wouldn't change the two weakest links in the U.S. plan -- namely, corruption and the sorry state of the Afghan police -- and just might make them worse. "Our presence is the corrupting force," Holbrooke is quoted as saying. As for the Afghan police, their enormous attrition rates make Obama's recruitment goals impossible. "It's like pouring water into a bucket with a hole in it, " Holbrooke reportedly said. Read more.


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