Holbrooke lauds Mideast, Japan for Pakistan aid

by Jun Hongo

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said Saturday that Middle Eastern nations, including Iran, played a key role in gathering aid for Pakistan at the Donors Conference in Tokyo the previous day.

About 50 nations and international groups pledged to give strife-torn Pakistan more than $5 billion over the next two years Friday, with Japan and the U.S. promising to contribute $1 billion each.

But Holbrooke, representing the United States, said that it was the efforts between “coalitions of countries that barely talk to each other in other forums” that brought the numbers up. Iran pitched in $300 million, Holbrooke said.

“There is no other country in the world that could have produced” such an outcome, the envoy said in congratulating Japan. Holbrooke said he was “impressed and pleased” with the positive tone Iran took in helping Pakistan.

Holbrooke revealed that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were also big donors and that each donated $700 million and $300 million, respectively.

But he also said $5 billion was not enough to fund Pakistan’s antiterrorism campaign and alleviate its poverty, saying he had heard that as much as $50 billion might be needed.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that (terrorists) are planning attacks,” he said, restating the need to continue focusing on the eradication of extremists in the region. He said the next key date for Afghanistan will its presidential election in August, where the international community must secure free and fair voting, he said.

During his stay in Tokyo, Holbrooke spoke with Prime Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone on assisting the region through agricultural aid, improved social welfare and job training. Tokyo and Washington are “indispensable allies” in U.S. policies in Asia, he said.

Regarding the absence of the Self-Defense Forces in the region, Holbrooke said the issue did not come up during the talks and that he had no intentions of asking Tokyo to dispatch its military unless it wanted to.