Another US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan has been appointed, but the US approach is becoming more narrow than before.

Early in March, Marc Grossman, the newly appointed US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, completed a tour of several countries. Dropping in on Jeddah, Kabul, Islamabad and Brussels, this was his first tour of the countries the US considers crucial to the 'Af-Pak' portfolio. This was also Grossman's first tour since he took over the post left empty by the sudden death of the US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, on 13 December. The most notable public outcome of the visits was a back-and-forth exchange with Pakistani journalists on the issue of Raymond Davis, the US contractor charged with murder in Pakistan and released after paying 'blood' money (see accompanying story by Urooj Zia). The other notable aspect during this trip was Grossman's near-verbatim repetition of policies described earlier by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a recent speech to the Asia Society, during which she announced Grossman's appointment. Though early days yet, it seems unlikely that the new incumbent, a diplomat brought out of retirement, will be making the waves his predecessor did.

With his forceful personality and penchant for persuasive bullying, Holbrooke grabbed headlines wherever he went. Prior to his appointment, he had been given credit for pushing through the US policy in the Balkans, by getting Slobodan Milosevic on board for the Dayton Accords. In Kabul, however, this headstrong approach proved less helpful. Among the notable contributions Holbrooke made to American relations with the Afghan leadership was his infamous showdown with President Hamid Karzai following the August 2009 presidential elections. The fallout, which is purported to have involved a shouting match, was over Holbrooke's criticism of the rigging of polling booths by Karzai supporters, and his insistence on the need for a second round of elections to establish credibility. Seen from the Afghan authorities' point of view, this was nothing short of betrayal; Karzai's supporters felt the US, which had no compunction in dumping democratic principles whenever it suited them, was using the charade of democracy to weaken him.

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Himal Southasian