January 18th, 2010
07:46 AM ET

Holbrooke: 'Most challenging situation'

[cnn-video url=http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/01/18/int.abawi.holbrooke.cnn]

As he looks back on 2009, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke talks to CNN's Atia Abawi. He says it was a "complicated and challenging year." Despite some progress, he says, the whole year was overshadowed by the Afghan presidential elections. Looking to 2010, he calls it "a dramatic year."

"I understand the challenges here," he says. "I don't want to say we've turned a corner or there's light at the end of the tunnel - I've been in too many wars to give that optimistic overspin but I will say this: the people of Afghanistan do not want the Taliban to come back."

Watch more of the interview on Holbooke on the importance of agriculture, how Afghanistan compares to other countries' he's traveled to and the international commitment to Afghanistan.

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soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. cyrene

    the best strategy is to get out of there ,,,,,,

    February 13, 2010 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. Nathanael [desert voice]

    Reading these comments over a period of several days I have come to the conclusion that there is a disconnect between what bloggers try to say. I for one have insisted that the term "negotiation" be avoided. I prefer just "hearing each other out." Everybody keeps protesting the "negotiations," as did I, so why we are wasting time? Let's say something that can better the situation. First, Mr. Karzai seems too melifluous for the mujahadin taste. I don't blame them. A stronger leader is needed, perhaps as acting Vice-President, to talk to these people. More importantly, no one is addressing the needs of the Talibanis, the main reason why they fight! Why? Aren't we able to satisfy their need of "swift justice"? I think that we can do better in this respect! President Karzai must tell the Taliban that under his government justice will be swifter than the Talibani justice! It's not difficult! Someone commits a crime, is brought before the judge, and is punished instantly! End of the story! Swift and unexpensive. The only thing that should not be negotiated away, is compassion and fairness! Instead of whipping, a thief can be locked in a hard labor facility, but sentenced and locked instantly1 That is what the Taliban has been fighting for, and I am sure that The U.S. can offer this to Taliban, since fairness and compassion is a Western value! That is what I would like to convey to the Taliban ... without negotiating. Just let them know that they are fighting about nothing!

    February 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. an afghan

    this is the dumbest thing i have ever heard.. give them more money so that they can buy more guns and shoot our troops.. nice!

    January 29, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Janet Tucker

    There are those who do not want peace, but there are more of us who want peace. Let us bring peace to our families, to our lands, and to every land on earth. Let us be people of peace.

    January 28, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Md. Zohurul Haque

    I always favor negotiation against violent path. I think it is possible to bring them to negotiating table. It will be new cultural trend for Afgan people and Talibans are the vital part of Afgan peoplel.

    January 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nathanael [desert voice]

    JKF argues that President Karzai should resign, and that a more charismatic true leader ought to take his place. Arguments are empty when they aren't specific. Who that leader might be? Any names? I heard some place that Mullah Omar fits the description. But, isn't he a bloody killer? I am against this type of leader. Here is what I would do with respect to Omar. I would lay siege to Quetta and I would smoke him out. Then, I would ask him what he knows about Bin Laden's whereabouts. If he helps out, I would show him leniency, but if he doesn't, I would hand him over to the Afghan justice. My sense is that Omar knows where Bin Laden is. Going back to the question whether Karzai should be replaced, I would discuss this with the prominent Afghan maliks (elders). Do they know a more qualified name? After all, it's their country and their future. Once they come up with a name, the West should hold a series of conversations to see if he or she is as good as advertised.

    January 26, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RT

    Yes Ms. Gail – cure is more bitter than the disease (corruption? – of course, more delicious and why not?) but it should lead to a brighter path for all.


    January 26, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ivan

    Unnecessary war indeed, but retaliation for 9/11 must having been done. Mission is not accomplish if strike on Iran won't be commenced immediately. Muslim world have to understand that we are serious from now on.

    January 24, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Larry

    This Country up until now sure wasn't any good showing Them how the Country should be run... We had Bush Jr that stowed two elections and how Him & Cheney could get way with the biggest corruption that could ever be with His Iraq War!!! Most of the World are looking at Us to do what is right... Now Obama is doing His best to make things right in both Iraq & Afghanistan ... The Republicans are fighting with Him to make things right in This Country... But all the Country against us just see how the few can run This Country and the Majority has nothing to say about it!!! So why should They do anything different???

    January 24, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rafiq

    Instead of this and that election, the first things the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq should vote about is whether they want the foreign occupation or not.

    January 24, 2010 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  11. Nathanael [desert voice]

    I applaud Mr. Holbrooke for his realistic caution in regards to the future of Afghanistan. It is a difficult situation, indeed. The fact that Afghanistan is landlocked complicates future prospects from economic standpoint. If I can add something to this discussion, a wishful thinking perhaps, is the necessity for Afghanistan to ask the UN for a corridor to the Arabian Sea. Nothing seems more necessary than access to a port! The UN could arrange a conference between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India to discuss the issue. I bring up India because Pakistan could be offered some equivalent amount of Kashmir in return for such a corridor, while India could also get something in return. I remember years ago I have been talking about a similar solution between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which against all odds and predictions, did pan out. Mr. Holbrooke should use his position and clout to raise this issue, which to my understanding would be an ideal solution to quench the regional animosities in the Central Asia for many years to come!

    January 23, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gail

    This is reminiscent of the cancer patient that is torn between the cure and the disease. Both are painful, but only one course provides the hope of life. The choice must be made by the Afghans (the patient) otherwise history in Afghanistan has taught us that a solution by a foreign power is very temporary at best.

    January 23, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. RT

    If us earthlings really want this current crisis end, it can be done.

    The flow of currency from financiers on either side should be very transparent by now.

    Any way, it is also a nice way to control human and associated creations population growth in this planet until this race can become more tame and advanced to head for more habitable locations before this solar system fades out – it's just that the manner that it is being done is quite a shame at the moment.

    January 22, 2010 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. JKF

    Karzai continues to fail to motivate the Afghan people; fails to motivate his own Pashtuns; fails the West in not spreading democratic ideals; and fails the allies that are keeping him in power. Karzai does not have the charisma and political leadership attributes necessary to turn the sit around. If the Afghan people are not motivated by their leader, the fight against the terrorist will not be won. The reality speaks for itself, after 8 yrs, Kabul is still not safe, Karzai still does not have a capable security system; and worse of all governance issues and the provision of the most basic services to the people are way behind any reasonable expectation. Karzai should/must resign, get out of the way of progress which he is incapable of leading. Karzai needs to be out of service for a long time, and a true charismatic Afghan leader needs to take his place.

    January 21, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Gurbir Bhullar

    If you look at the history of Afghan-Pak border or Khyber pass, it was never a peaceful land expect once when the entire region was ruled by the sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh. At that time only violence and aggression was contained in these rugged, lawless lands by his Commander-in-chief Hari Singh Nalwa by taking control of Khyber Pass and blocking their entry into the subcontinent. The people of the area are very aggressive in nature, fundamentalist in ideology, illiterate in knowledge which makes it even more difficult to make them understand the importance to maintain peace and harmony in the world and peaceful co-existence of all faiths and beliefs.
    And, their(Taliban) cause is further strengthen by support from a particular country which consider them as their strategic assests. If America really wants to end Afghan war on a winning note then they will have to do some straight talk with country supporting them otherwise Americans cannot win this war in 1000 years.

    January 21, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Alan Robbins

    It would be nice to believe that the US could simply pack up and ignore this region but the reality is that this region is central to the security of American interests at home and abroad. I laugh when I hear the complaint that drones kill civilians. Not that long ago, 3000+ American civilians were murdered by Muslim madmen in NYC....madmen who trained and formulated their plans in Afghanistan.
    Also not long ago, countries at war flattened entire cities, killing tens of thousands of civilians as part of the war process...think Dresden or Hiroshima. Unfortunately, when combatants take up arms amongst civilians, civilians die. I say we should take a lesson from the past and carpet bomb entire quadrants in the tribal areas and hotspots around the globe. If extremists and their supporters are hell-bent on exporting their way of life in the name of Islam, then bomb them all to Paradise and be done with it. Why should we have to spend billions protecting ourselves from bearded lunatics who murder and butcher their own kind as well as anyone else who disagrees. This is not about religion but power and influence. Let's rid the world of these cowards once and for all.

    January 20, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Mahomed Hameed

    Mr Holbrook needs to understand that this war is never going to be won by stepping up the violence .(by introducing another thirty thousand troops). History proves that no one conquered Afganistan. To the ordinary Afgan this is about conquer and plunder. You cannot kill innocent citizens with drones and expect to win the war! Infact it is only widening the conflict.
    Afgans lived for thousands of years on their own,and they are able to solve their own problems without interference...albeit not to the Western standard or culture.
    To NATO we say 'pack your bags',only pay for the damage and havoc that you have caused to this long suffering nation for over eight years!.

    January 19, 2010 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  18. A. Smith, Oregon

    It is utterly clear to everyone that the ease in which the Taliban entered Kabul was the result from ever more Afghanistan people rallying against the corrupt President Karzi and his corrupt Government. Its time for U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke to publicly admit that the CIA can no longer handpick a corrupt leader in any foreign nation and force that corrupt leader upon the people in that foreign nation propped up by the guns and blood of the American soldiers. It simply does not work and the blow-back on the American people for decades afterwards is not worth the blood and treasure spent in doing so. The Afghanistan people hate America, Mission Accomplished, time for our troops to come home.

    January 19, 2010 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  19. Susan

    I am currently in Kabul and would like to praise the Aghan security forces for doing such a good job containing the violence. It is amazing to me that only 5 people were killed and that may have to do with the incompetence of the insurgents, but more to do with the preparedness of the Afghan police.

    What doesn't get said in the news reports is that the majority of Kabul is very quiet and life goes on as usual. There are US aid workers here doing phenomenal work with the Afghan people. The NGO's are providing additional excellent security so that this work can continue.

    Please know that we (the US) is doing good work here and empowering the Afghan people in many ways to contribute to the growth, prosperity and security of their own country.

    January 18, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Dr.Safwat Ayoub

    The comment by Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan on this serious failure to defend the capital Kabul against today's daring attack, which lasted 3 hours, is too simplistic. Holbrooke, said that: "the Taliban behind the attack were part of a set of extremist groups" .."They are desperate people; they are ruthless". . Nevertheless, the core of the problem is the penetration by the Taliban in the ranks of the national police and the army. This is one of the principal reasons why the Taliban possess the power to outperform. Dr.Safwat Ayoub.

    January 18, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Ramin Shurmach

    The Government (Cabinets,parliament) of afghanistan should focus on 2 points;
    1, Stay and work with Superman (US) and it is the Most challenging situation for United State of America as Richard Holbrooke said. and from 2010 will might be begining of Explosions in Kabul or elsewhere in afghanitan.

    2, Stay and work with Spiderman(UK). taliban trying to undercontrol of afghanistan by the help of pakistan and pakistan has already affected by Web-spinning from spider in 11 August 1947 itll now, therefore with 32 million population and a very week Government is not only Most challenging situation but it is going to very impossible to solve the setuation in afghanistan

    the best way is to bring Superman and Spiderman together and bring close relationship with them 🙂 is funny but i think is ture.

    January 18, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |