The Obama administration's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, is preparing for his first foreign trip in his new role. Holbrooke, a former Assistant Secretary of State and United Nations Ambassador, will visit South Asia after attending an international security conference in Germany late next week.
Officials here provided no details of Holbrooke's itinerary but said he will visit Pakistan and Afghanistan, and probably other countries in the region, in a fact-finding trip as the new administration reviews its policy on the Afghan conflict.
Holbrooke, a key figure in peace negotiations that ended the 1990s Balkans conflict, was named to the post last week along with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who has already begun his first mission as a special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
State Department Acting Spokesman Robert Wood said Holbrooke, like Mitchell in the Middle East, will be on what amounts to a listening tour in South Asia before reporting back to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"He wants to go and touch base with leaders in the region, and also to hear what they have to say in terms of what needs to be done to improve the situation in that region," he said.
Wood said he expects Holbrooke to leave Washington in the middle of next week for Europe to attend the three-day Munich Conference on Security Policy opening February 6 before flying on to South Asia.
He said the Munich gathering, also known as the Wehrkunde conference, will be an opportunity for the envoy to discuss the Afghan conflict and related border unrest in Pakistan with U.S. European allies as part of the administration policy review.
President Obama is widely expected to announce a major increase in the 36,000-member U.S. troop commitment to Afghanistan.
But a senior U.S. diplomat said Thursday that Secretary Clinton is convinced that the United States and NATO cannot be succeed there without the proper mix of developmental, political and military action, and ultimately a political solution to the conflict.
Vice President Joe Biden and White House National Security Advisor James Jones will also be attending the Wehrkunde conference, which is expected to be the new administration's first major foray into international politics.