The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Holbrooke on Success in Afghanistan: ‘We’ll Know It When We See It’

Last updated: July 31, 2020 | August 12, 2009 | Daniel James
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At a filled-to-capacity event with most of the interagency team run by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to manage the deteriorating security and political conditions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Obama administration’s special envoy to the two states addressed a burning question: what will U.S. interests require success to look like in Afghanistan? John Podesta, the president of the Center for American Progress, asked Holbrooke if American interests can be satisfied by integration of former Taliban fighters, a “weak state” and discrete military strikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan.”

“The military struggle with U.S. troops is not an open-ended event, but our civilian assistance will continue,” Holbrooke said. Stressing the interagency coordination represented by the ten officials flanking Holbrooke on the panel at Washington’s St. Regis Hotel, Holbrooke said that while the United States had to be “clear about what our national interests are,” ultimately, success would require taking a “Supreme Court test” — “We’ll know it when we see it.”

(The reference is to a famous line attributed to Justice Potter Stewart about identifying pornography.)

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