The United States has announced the appointment of James Dobbins as the new special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry termed the appointment of the veteran diplomat as “a pivotal moment” for the two nations.
Dobbins, who has served in difficult posts such as Kosovo and in 2001 raised the U.S. flag over the embassy in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban, will be taking up a job once held by Richard Holbrooke. The post of special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan has been vacant since Marc Grossman stepped down in December. Grossman had come out of retirement to take the job after Holbrooke’s sudden death in December 2010.
This is a pivotal moment for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, with interconnected political, security, and economic transitions already under way in Afghanistan, and Pakistani elections just days away, marking an important and historic democratic transition, Kerry said.
The top US diplomat said he had made it a priority to find the right person for the job, adding that Dobbins would continue building on diplomatic efforts to bring the conflict to a peaceful conclusion. Dobbins was the special envoy to Afghanistan under former president George W. Bush and represented Washington at the Bonn conference that helped establish an Afghan government after the Taliban were driven from power.
Dobbins is a former assistant secretary of state for European affairs and worked in hot-spots such as Bosnia and Haiti, and Kerry praised him as one of our nation’s most accomplished diplomats. His appointment reaffirms this government’s commitment to the key national security priority of ensuring Afghanistan and Pakistan are secure, stable and prosperous nations. He will not need Senate confirmation though, and U.S. officials said it was expected that he would make his first trip to the region soon.
The appointment of James Dobbins implies the following:
• The United States government understands the need to establish durable peace and security in Afghanistan.
• It is aware that strong bilateral relations with Afghanistan and Pakistan are crucial to deny Al-Qaeda a safe haven in Afghanistan.
• Afghanistan and Pakistan are accorded high importance in the realm of American foreign policy.
• The United States wants to diplomatically engage with both countries on sensitive issues directly related to regional peace and security.
• The selection and appointment of an experienced diplomat to the region reflects that the Obama Administration is not oblivious to developments in South Asia.
While it is highly commendable that the U.S. Secretary of State has underlined the importance of both countries and chosen to appoint an official with an excellent track record in diplomacy, the ground reality check remains an element of equal importance. The security transition in Afghanistan in 2014 and the political transition in Pakistan in 2013 are events of extraordinary importance. Diplomacy will help to build bridges of friendship but coordination of the intelligence community will keep terrorism in check. Without a meaningful mechanism of intelligence sharing between these countries and establishment of mutual trust, turmoil will continue to haunt all peace overtures. The underlying fact is that peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and Pakistan will help to maintain peace in South Asia.
1. Dawn News May 4, 2013