- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2009

TOKYO | Foreign governments seeking influence over a U.S. policy review targeting Afghanistan and Pakistan are appointing or offering to name special envoys - copying the Obama administration’s emerging bureaucratic structure.

U.S. and foreign diplomats said the aim is to have high-level officials who can work with U.S. special representative Richard C. Holbrooke and that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has accepted the idea.

After major European nations made such offers earlier this month, Mrs. Clinton welcomed another one from Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone during a visit to Tokyo on Tuesday.

“I invited the minister to have someone work with us on our policy review of Afghanistan and Pakistan, because we want to have the benefit of the experience of the Japanese involvement as we go forward to determine the approach that we’ll be taking,” she told reporters.

Last week, Britain and Germany appointed special representatives to the South Asian countries - both senior career diplomats. Britain’s Sherard Cowper-Coles is currently ambassador to Afghanistan, and Germany’s Bernd Muetzelburg is ambassador to India.

U.S. officials said the foreign contribution was likely to be limited.

“We’ve said that our policy review should be completed by mid- to late March, so there is not much more time” to gather views and recommendations from other countries, said a senior U.S. official, who asked not to be named because he was describing private conversations.

Another potential difficulty in having so many envoys could be Mr. Holbrooke’s style, which many have described as not prone to close cooperation with others.

Despite skepticism about the impact of multiple envoys, specialists said, Mrs. Clinton had little choice but to accept the offers.

“On what basis would she refuse?” asked Thomas Donnelly, a defense and security policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. “It would be difficult, having appointed a viceroy of her own.”

However, “the potential for mischief and for too many cooks to spoil the broth increases every time you add an extra competing center of power, especially with the anxiety factor, when it comes to Holbrooke,” Mr. Donnelly said. Multiple envoys also allow Afghans and Pakistanis to play the allies against one another, and “if they get beat up by Holbrooke, they could go to someone with more sympathy,” he said.

The Obama administration has said that the task in Afghanistan is too formidable for the U.S. to manage on its own, and military, political and economic help from other countries is essential.

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