In life, Richard Holbrooke was loyal to the Obama administration, but since his December death, his widow and friends have decided that it is important people know the true opinions of this special envoy to the Af-Pak region, writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times—including what Holbrooke saw "as missteps of the Obama administration that he served." And they're especially worth hearing at this moment, writes Kristof, as we examine our relationships with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“Reconciliation—that was what he was working toward in Afghanistan, and building up the civilian and political side that had been swamped by the military,” says his widow. “The whole policy was off-kilter, way too militarized. Richard never thought that this war could be won on the battlefield.” Kristof believes that Holbrooke would have wanted to use the momentum created from killing Osama bin Laden to step up diplomacy and sign a peace deal with the Taliban. “He understood from his experience that every conflict has to end at the negotiating table," says a colleague. But Holbrooke told Kristof that Afghanistan paled in importance to Pakistan, which is much larger and has nuclear weapons. “A stable Afghanistan is not essential; a stable Pakistan is essential,” Holbrooke wrote in the papers he left behind.