SHAIKH SHAHZAID CAMP, Pakistan — U.S. envoy Richard C. Holbrooke, red-faced and sweaty, sat on the dirt floor of a stifling tent as Aslam Khan, a 38-year-old laborer, spoke haltingly of his family’s panicked flight from a Pakistani army offensive against Taliban forces in their mountain village, three hours north of here.
Holbrooke asked some questions about the Taliban but got few answers. “Are these all your children?” he asked with a smile. Yes, Khan said, he had nine.
“Your daughter is beautiful,” Holbrooke continued, nodding toward a young woman who sat quietly at the edge of the family. Her head was covered in a royal-blue scarf that revealed only her stunningly dark eyes.
“That’s not my daughter,” Khan said abruptly. After an awkward silence, the woman explained that she was a Pakistani police officer. It was unclear whether she was there to protect Holbrooke from the refugees, or to monitor what they told him.
Something tells me that explaining away near-gaffes like this one as a problem of implementation won’t be any easier than it was last time.