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'Holbrooke knew Pak Generals are lying to him on India'

April 22, 2013 14:52 IST

Late Richard Holbrooke, the first United States special Af-Pak envoy, was fully aware that the Pakistani generals were lying to him on their support to the extremist groups against India, but he was against cutting off military aid to Islamabad, a new book has said.

In his latest book "Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East", the two-time Pulitzer winner David Rhode said Holbrooke wanted massive aid for Pakistan and launch some signature big projects there, in the absence of which he increasingly became frustrated with the USAID.

"While publicly praising the Pakistanis, he was tough-minded in Pakistan. Holbrooke was fully aware that the Pakistani military was still supporting the Afghan Taliban as proxies against India and that some Pakistani generals were lying to his face," Rhodes said.

"In a conversation with Holbrooke in 2010, I asked him why the United States did not cut its USD 1 billion a year in military aid to the Pakistan army. He said cutting aid was 'off the table' because it would only increase distrust of the United States. 'This cannot be a transactional relationship'," he told me.

In his book, Rhodes writes that many people in the US government were against Holbrooke's style of functioning.

"USAID officials and some American diplomats complained that Holbrooke repeatedly shifted the focus of the American assistance in Pakistan," he wrote.

In his book, which hit the stands this week, Rhodes gives an insight into the working of Holbrook, his tensed relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the public engagement and focus on Pakistan and the manner in which he was sidelined by the White House.

In January 2009, Holbrooke was appointed as President Barack Obama's special adviser on Pakistan and Afghanistan, a frustrating assignment which was said to have caused his health to deteriorate.

He served until he died from complications of an aortic dissection on December 13, 2010, at the age of 69.

Rhodes, who spent eight years in Afghanistan and Pakistan where he was held captive for seven months by the Taliban, argues the case for easing the India-Pakistan tension, which he says is important to stabilize the broader Islamic world.

He argues the Obama Administration in its second term should stop providing aid to the Pakistan Army, alleging that it suppresses democracy.

The book has been listed by the Foreign Policy magazine as 25 top "Books to Read" in 2013.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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