Holbrooke jokes about Kerry’s Karzai eclipse

October 23, 2009

Power plays are always a tricky business in Washington and sometimes it’s better to make a joke out of it. Or not.

Special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, used that tactic on Friday when asked about reports that veteran Senator John Kerry is stealing his limelight.

“I’d like to make a joke and say, ‘I’m always happy to be eclipsed by John Kerry.’ But then you’ll take it seriously and then I’ll cause more problems,” Holbrooke told reporters.

AFGHANISTAN/Kerry was in Kabul earlier this week with a mission to convince incumbent President Hamid Karzai to agree to a run-off election after the flawed first round in August. Apparently Holbrooke was also working the phones as was U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But it was Kerry who grabbed the headlines, prompting journalists to question whether he was the de facto secretary of state and key player when it came to dealing with Karzai.

While Kerry was prodding Karzai in Kabul, Holbrooke said he was in Washington helping Clinton prepare for meetings with President Barack Obama as he reviews U.S. strategy on Afghanistan. Holbrooke’s last visit to Kabul was in August when he met several times with Karzai.  Some of those meetings were said to be heated.

But on Friday, Holbrooke brushed aside talk of strained relations with Karzai, saying they got along just  “fine,” he had “respect” for the Afghan leader and looked forward to seeing him soon. AFGHANISTAN/

“I have absolutely no problems with him.  And — and it’s as simple as that.”

Let’s see what the body language is like when Holbrooke next visits Karzai at his palace in Kabul. Will they hold a joint news conference as Karzai did with Kerry this week?

Photo credit: Reuters/Ahmad Masood (Kerry and Karzai at news conference in Kabul in October) Reuters/Omar Sobhani (Holbrooke and Karzai in Kabul in February)

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