Holbrooke to Lead US Mission to Pakistan

Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is due to visit Pakistan later this week for talks with authorities there on how to assist people displaced by recent Pakistani actions against the Taliban.

Holbrooke was asked to travel to the region by President Barack Obama. He will be joined by representatives from the U.S. Agency for International Development and Pentagon.

"While in Pakistan, Ambassador Holbrooke will meet with internally displaced people and relief organizations, as well as with local and national Pakistani officials," the State Department said June 1.

The visit is an indication of the increasingly dire humanitarian circumstances caused by the Pakistani army's campaign against the Taliban in that country's northwest Swat Valley region. More than 3 million people are thought to have been displaced by the military campaign.

The visit is the latest in a series of actions taken by the U.S. in relation to Pakistan of late. Holbrooke has been to Capitol Hill to defend the Obama administration's plan to provide additional financial resources to the region, despite concerns that this money is being misused once in the hands of the Pakistanis.

Also, according to reports, USAID is planning to establish its own air force in Pakistan to more effectively distribute aid. Private donors have also pledged $224 million to assist displaced residents.

The United Nations likewise has asked donors for more than $600 million to help deal with the refugee situation in Pakistan.

The visit of high-ranking U.S. officials is the latest sign that development priorities, along with military efforts, are shifting from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan. This shift is likely to make working conditions for aid workers more difficult, as aid workers were already widely targeted by the Taliban militia.

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    David Francis

    David is a Washington-based journalist and former Devex staffer who spearheaded Devex's "Obama's Foreign Aid Reform" blog. He has written for the Christian Science Monitor, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, SportsIllustrated.com, San Francisco Chronicle, Foreign Policy magazine, and the Washington Monthly. David holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a graduate degree from Georgetown University.