Art by Yousef Amairi

Art by Yousef Amairi
the struggle continues

July 23, 2009

Holbrooke heads to the subcontinent Mon, 07/20/2009 - Source: FP

U.S. Af-Pak envoy Richard Holbrooke has quietly headed to South Asia, where sources say he will be making a surreptitious stop in India following Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's meetings in that country. Holbrooke's team wouldn't confirm the planned travel or India visit when contacted Saturday (he also will visit Afghanistan, Pakistan and Brussels), and an administration official would only say the Holbrooke team would not overlap with Clinton, who is currently in New Delhi after three nights in Mumbai. But Holbrooke's itinerary was confirmed Monday after it was learned he had already departed for travel in the region.

A source explained the seeming secrecy as meant to avoid ruffling feathers in India, which is sensitive to being lumped in with the Af-Pak problem-child portfolio that Holbrooke spearheads. Clinton may have helped boost India's confidence in the Obama administration by inviting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Washington for the administration's first official red-carpet state visit of a foreign leader, scheduled to occur in November two days before the first anniversary of the Mumbai attacks.

Holbrooke, who along with a posse of some two dozen other envoys and senior State Department officials, attended Clinton's Wednesday foreign policy address at the Council on Foreign Relations, recently asked Dennis Ross when he would be clearing out his Foggy Bottom office space, according to one Washington foreign-policy hand.

Now that Ross is headed over to the National Security Council, Holbrooke has been sharing his architectural plans for knocking down a wall between the two envoys' spaces and taking over Ross's former offices on the building's first floor. The walls of Holbrooke's offices have been decorated with framed photos from his distinguished career (the Holbrooke "hall of fame," according to one observer). Holbrooke is said to have preferred expanding his first-floor "envoy avenue" offices -- on the well-traveled hall just a few shakes from the State Department cafeteria -- over getting extra VIP space on the secretary's seventh floor.

Laura Rozen

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