Tuesday, December 14

Ignoring advice that there have been too many cooks in Afghan War, Obama names Frank Ruggerio to fill Richard Holbrooke's post

From a December 14, 2010 Christian Science Monitor analysis:
[...] But despite his reputation as a heavyweight in US diplomacy going back to the Vietnam war, Mr. Holbrooke struggled with a cacophony of voices dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now that he's gone, some in the region say it's time to scrap the envoy role altogether and instead channel US communications within the region through fewer players.

In particular, some suggest, if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose to engage in the region, she would have the authority to better coordinate her pair of well-regarded ambassadors in Islamabad and Kabul as well as US military outreach.

“You do need to have one central voice, and one central lead, and that really should be Secretary Clinton,” says Samina Ahmed, project director for South Asia at the International Crisis Group.

Currently, many voices speak for the US in Pakistan, says Ms. Ahmed. Congress, the US Embassy, and Holbrooke’s office all work with the civilian government while military leaders like Adm. Mike Mullen negotiate regularly with the Pakistani military.

“In the midst of a democratic transition, you have the military taking the lead as much as the civilians taking the lead as far as what the US policy should be. These are confused signals sent,” Ahmed says.

However, it appears the Obama administration intends to keep the office of special envoy, naming Frank Ruggiero, a lesser-known diplomat but one with experience navigating the civilian-military divide in Afghanistan, as his successor. [...]
Who is Frank Ruggiero? From the August 2010 profile of Ruggiero at The Washington Post's Who Runs Government website:
Current Position: Deputy to U.S. Afpak Special Envoy Richard C. Holbrooke (since April 2010)

Career History: Regional Head of U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Southern Afghanistan (June 2009-April 2010); Acting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs (January-June 2009); Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

Why He Matters

Steeped in the culture and politics of Aghanistan after working on the civilian effort there for over a year, Ruggiero has returned to Washington to lend his expertise to U.S. Special Envoy Richard C. Holbrooke and help craft AfPak policy.

(See Ackerman, Spencer, Top U.S. Civilian in Southern Afghanistan Will Be Holbrooke's New Deputy, Washington Independent, April 23, 2010.)

The top civilian in southern Afghanistan since June 2009, Ruggiero has helped execute what Obama administration officials call the "civilian uplift" – a dramatic increase in the number of non-military experts working on aid and reconstruction projects in the country

(See Hodge, Nathan, Danger Room in Afghanistan: Rebranding the ‘Civilian Surge', Wired "Danger Room" blog, Aug. 6, 2009.)

By installing Ruggiero as a deputy to Holbrooke, the administration hopes to tap directly into Ruggiero's on-the-ground expertise as Afghanistan reconstruction plans become central to U.S. policy in the region. This will be especially true once American and NATO forces begin to withdraw in summer 2011.

"Ruggiero should be able to provide Holbrooke, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama with ground-truth visibility on the difficulties and possibilities of fostering credible, deliverable governance for Afghans in the south, a centerpiece of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan," reporter Spencer Ackerman wrote.

(See Ackerman, Spencer, Top U.S. Civilian in Southern Afghanistan Will Be Holbrooke's New Deputy, Washington Independent, April 23, 2010.)

A respected career civil servant, Ruggiero has worked for both the State and Comerce departments. Before being dispatched to Afghanistan in 2009, he was head of the State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
For background see Danger Room's Reconstruction Chief Quits, Putting ‘Civilian Surge’ in Doubt by Spencer Ackerman, September 28, 2010

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