U.S. Envoy Faces Tough Test In Afghanistan
MADELEINE BRAND, Host:
As we mentioned, Richard Holbrooke arrives in Kabul tomorrow. Holbrooke is a veteran diplomat, but he has had little experience with Afghanistan, and this will be his first trip. Even so many Afghans say they expect a lot from him. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has the story from Kabul.
U: (Foreign language spoken)
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: There's a lot of optimism here at the Bush bazaar, which has unofficially been renamed the Obama bazaar. Many here in this hodgepodge of stalls selling American sundries have not heard of Richard Holbrooke, but they approve of Mr. Obama appointing a special envoy to their country. It's a diplomatic post they hope carries enough clout to turn Afghanistan around.
BRAND: (Foreign language spoken)
SARHADDI NELSON: Afghan politicians familiar with Holbrooke's reputation share their constituents' optimism. They see him as a no nonsense guy with experience at calming ethnic tensions, like his brokering a deal that ended the Bosnian conflict 14 years ago.
BRAND: I think this is the great appointment that we had since seven years.
SARHADDI NELSON: Shukria Baraksai is a lawmaker representing Kabul in Afghanistan's Lower House.
BRAND: I'm sure he can solve part of problems. It's very optimistic to say all, but we will be happy if 20 percent problem will be getting solved. I think that will be a great achievement for United States and for Afghans, too.
SARHADDI NELSON: In order to speed up progress here, the strategy has garnered support but little action. Paula Cantor heads the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, a think tank in Kabul.
BRAND: That straight talking approach that Holbrooke is known for could be useful here in shaking up actors from the international community to the government, which, while not necessarily complacent at the moment, I think might be somewhat spinning wheels trying to find a new course.
SARHADDI NELSON: Mohammad Ichbul-Safi(ph) is a lawmaker from Kapisa Province.
BRAND: (Through translator) In the past, when the Americans didn't listen, they failed here, like when we told them that they needed to fight the terrorists in Pakistan. If the new administration doesn't listen, it will fail like the previous one.
SARHADDI NELSON: Safi adds the warm reception Holbrooke is getting now could quickly turn cold. Afghan patience has worn thin, he says, especially in this time of insecurity and economic hardship. He and others here estimate the new envoy will have less than a year to prove to Afghans that the new U.S. administration can deliver. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul.
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