staff and news service reports
updated 3/17/2009 9:45:40 PM ET 2009-03-18T01:45:40

President Barack Obama has chosen retired Air Force Gen. J. Scott Gration to be a special envoy to war-wracked Sudan, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

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Gration is a close personal friend of Obama and has considerable experience on African issues.

The administration official said Tuesday that Gration is the pick of both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The announcement was being made Wednesday.

Gration was an adviser to Obama during his presidential campaign on a range of military and national security issues. He is also an expert on Africa who was partly raised on the continent and is fluent in Swahili.

In 2006 he accompanied then-Sen. Obama on a trip to Africa.

Most recently, he was CEO of the aid project Millennium Villages.

Gration has an engineering degree from Rutgers — and is described as an expert on safe water who has extensive relationships with key leaders in the region. He also holds a master's degree in national security from Georgetown University.

A senior official told NBC News that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "signed off" on the choice. During her presidential campaign, however, Gration was one of the retired military leaders who played offense against Clinton on Obama's behalf and at one point, spoke against her judgment.

"It's ironic that Hillary Clinton compared Barack Obama to George Bush when she voted to authorize the war in Iraq, supports the Bush policy of not talking to leaders we don't like, and gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran and Pakistan," Gration said during the campaign.

"On these key questions, Barack Obama not only made a different judgment — he made the right judgment. That is why more and more Americans believe that he is the best choice to defend our security as commander-in-chief, and to restore our standing in the world."

This article contains reporting from NBC News' Andrea Mitchell and The Associated Press.

© 2013


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