December 14, 2010

Ambassador Holbrooke, RIP

Last night began a well-deserved barrage of official statements, shared memories, thoughts and prayers for Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and his family and friends. His dedication to the country was something we should all respect and strive to emulate.

Ambassador Holbrooke is remembered today as one of the shrewdest diplomats of his generation, whose keen understanding of complex national security and foreign policy challenges helped advance U.S. interests. For our own modest tribute, we'd like to remind you that this tireless Ambassador worked hard to bring clean water and power to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to promote agricultural development in Afghanistan as an important leg of U.S. strategy. He promoted the need to provide basic resources as a necessary component of stability. Here are a few news highlights of his great work toward integrating resources into the U.S. approach to the region.

Speaking at a joint conference with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in February 2010, Ambassador Holbrooke emphasized the importance of restoring the agricultural sector in Afghanistan, where 80 percent of Afghans livelihoods are linked to agriculture: "Our goal is nothing less than to help Afghanistan restore its agricultural sector to the vibrant export economy that it once had."

From the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue in Islamabad in June 2010, Ambassador Holbrooke spoke of the importance of water and energy in promoting stability in Pakistan and advancing U.S. interests in South Asia:

Last week, experts from the US came here to meet with their Pakistani counterparts to discuss science and technology, and defence. This week we had meetings on agriculture, economics, water, market access, and energy. In all of these meetings, we are discussing real policy issues and how to work together to advance our common agenda...

On water, this was the first time we discussed water issues with Pakistan in such detail. More remarkably these discussions involved representatives from all the provinces as well as the federal agencies involved in this extraordinarily complex issue. Having provincial and federal water authorities, experts, working together is essential to overcome Pakistan's water scarcity issue. We look forward to supporting your efforts to create a water regulatory authority. Under Secretary Maria Otero noted when she was here just a day or two ago, we look forward to hosting a group of your federal and provincial water experts in the US this fall to study how the US deals with our own serious federal versus state water issues -an issue that has been in the centre of American history for over a 150 years...

On energy, I think we should be encouraged by the continuing engagement on this issue. After all, we only announced our initiatives on energy nine months ago. Secretary Clinton was here in October and now the progress and measures put into place since Prime Minister Gilani convened your energy summit in April are clear. Load shedding has decreased in the urban areas and we have seen a clear government commitment to put energy on a more solid financial footing. We have begun the work of implementing the energy projects announced by Secretary Clinton during an October visit and we did that on previous trips. And we are committed to supporting you in this important field...

Ambassador Holbrooke was persistent in promoting U.S. cooperation with Pakistan around water and energy resources. "We are putting more and more emphasis on energy and water issues, and we
will continue to do that up to the absolute limits of what the Congress
will fund," he said during a State Department news conference in April. During the June U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, Holbrooke advanced a plan for the United States to host Pakistani water experts in order to, according to Ambassador Holbrooke, “study how the U.S. deals with our own serious federal-versus-state water issues — an issue that has been at the center of American history for over 150 years.” His recognition of the importance of these issues for U.S. national security and foreign policy has helped advance the need to understand the complex link between natural resources, defense, diplomacy, and development. For that and more, we are indebted.

Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Department of State.