One evening in June 2009, Richard Holbrooke paid a visit to Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari at the presidential palace in Islamabad. It was one of his first visits to the region as the Obama Administration’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. In that role, Holbrooke — who died in December 2010 — wanted to broaden and deepen engagement with the country many had come to see as the most dangerous place in the world. And Zardari had his own ideas about how Washington could help.
“Pakistan is like AIG,” Zardari told Holbrooke, comparing his country to the U.S. insurance giant that was bailed out in 2008. “Too big to fail.” Washington, Zardari keenly recalled, had given AIG “$100 billion. You should give Pakistan the same,” Zardari said. Holbrooke smiled throughout the meeting.
Sitting with Holbrooke…
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