Veteran U.S. Diplomat to Lead Afghanistan-Pakistan Effort

BY Larisa Epatko  May 3, 2013 at 1:40 PM EDT


U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Photo by Kim Jae-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images.

Ambassador James Dobbins will be the new special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Friday. It won’t be unfamiliar territory for the career diplomat.

Among other roles, Dobbins (pictured at right) was special envoy to Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. He oversaw the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia and NATO intervention in Kosovo, according to his biography on RAND Corporation’s website, where he now works as director of its International Security and Defense Policy Center.

Dobbins replaces Marc Grossman who came out of retirement to fill the position after the previous representative, Richard Holbrooke, died in December 2010. Grossman said last fall that he was leaving to return to private life. His deputy David Pearce served in the interim.

As special representative, some of Dobbins’ major issues will include trying to negotiate a settlement in Afghanistan as U.S. troops withdraw from the country.

On the March 11 PBS NewsHour, Dobbins told senior correspondent Judy Woodruff why he thought the U.S. should retain some sort of role in Afghanistan after the troop withdrawal:

“I mean, clearly, if we had no role in Afghanistan, we would have no way of coping with al-Qaida either in Pakistan or Afghanistan. All of the attacks on al-Qaida in Pakistan today are conducted from Afghanistan. So we have an interest in retaining some role. We see a very modest, small role for the United States,” he said.

You can watch his full interview:

He also spoke a year ago about Afghanistan’s readiness to take over security responsibilities after the U.S. departure:

“It’s only by essentially forcing a level of independence and autonomy that they’re going to develop the skills necessary to survive without the large American and NATO presence. They’re not ready in many respects. On the other hand, they’re much more numerous than their opponents. They’re much better equipped than their opponents,” he said.

Watch the full May 2012 interview:

Dobbins will not need Senate confirmation to fill his new post.

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