Thursday, January 08, 2009

AP: Clinton's State Department team takes shape

I found this today from the Associated Press. I am especially pleased to see that she plans to keep Undersecretary for Political Affairs Burns, who I think is competent and qualified. I am also glad Undersecretary for Management Pat Kennedy is staying. I have had some dealings with him as well and have appreciated both his guidance and candor.

Clinton's State Department team takes shape

Hillary Rodham Clinton is quietly building a new State Department team with seasoned diplomats as she prepares for her confirmation hearings next week, according to Democratic sources and officials familiar with the transition.

Clinton has settled on choices for a number of top positions, including high-profile special envoys who played prominent roles in her husband's administration for key hotspots South Asia and the Middle East, and pointmen for East Asia and Europe, they said. She will also keep at least two career foreign service officers in critical posts, they said.

The incoming secretary of state plans to name former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke to be special adviser for Pakistan and Afghanistan and is almost certain to appoint former Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross to be her special adviser for the Middle East and Iran, they said.

Clinton will retain respected career diplomat William Burns in his current position as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the department's third-highest ranking job, and keep on Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, who oversees the department's far-flung worldwide operations, the sources said.

In addition, they said, Clinton will select Kurt Campbell, a former Clinton administration Pentagon official, to be assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Philip Gordon, a former director for European affairs at the National Security Council, to be assistant secretary of state for European affairs.

She also intends to name Princeton University professor Anne-Marie Slaughter to be the State Department's next director of policy planning, they said.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the appointments, some of which require Senate confirmation, have not been formally announced. Clinton herself will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday for what many expect will be a relatively painless confirmation hearing.

Her choices for top positions - including earlier selections of James Steinberg and Jacob Lew, both former Clinton administration officials, to be deputy secretaries of state - appear to reflect a desire to bring back or retain current expertise in many of what will become President-elect Barack Obama's most serious foreign policy challenges.

Holbrooke and Ross have long histories of involvement in some of the most intense diplomatic negotiations in U.S. history.

Holbrooke brokered the peace deal that ended the 1992-1995 Balkans war. He was also U.S. ambassador to Germany and envoy to the United Nations during President Bill Clinton's administration and gave foreign policy advice to Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries last year.

Ross was the lead U.S. negotiator in Mideast peace efforts for both Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton. He played a major part in an interim agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in 1995 and worked on the failed effort to arrange peace between Israel and Syria and the ultimately unsuccessful 2000 Camp David talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

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