Amid rising tensions over an American diplomat's shooting of two Pakistanis, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to name a retired career diplomat as the Obama administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. officials said Monday.
Marc Grossman, who served as the State Department's third-ranking diplomat under President George W. Bush and was an ambassador to Turkey, would take the post held by Richard Holbrooke from 2009 until his death last December, the officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the appointment, which was first reported by The Washington Post, has not yet been made public.
The appointment is expected to be announced either before or during a major policy speech on Afghanistan and Pakistan that Clinton is to deliver to the Asia Society in New York on Friday, the officials said.
Grossman retired from the foreign service in 2005 and works as vice chairman for the Cohen Group, a consulting firm run by former Defense Secretary William Cohen.
Filling Holbrooke's big shoes
In taking the job as the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Grossman will be stepping into enormous shoes left by Holbrooke. His death from a ruptured aorta on Dec. 13 left a major void in the administration's policymaking hierarchy in the two countries deemed most critical to the fight against al-Qaida and other violent extremists.
The larger-than-life Holbrooke was named to the job just two days after President Barack Obama was sworn in. Holbrooke was put in charge of a broad policy review that led to changes in priorities in dealing with insurgencies in the two countries and hopes for improved cooperation.
However, since his death, always uncertain relations with Pakistan have spiraled downward with the killing this month of two Pakistani men by a U.S. diplomat whose release Washington is demanding on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.
Pakistan has thus far refused to free the man, leading Clinton to cancel high-level talks with Pakistani officials that had been scheduled for later this month.
The difficulties of the position and Holbrooke's stature were such that at least six former senior diplomats turned down the job, according to officials familiar with the selections process.
Considered were former deputy secretaries of state John Negroponte, Richard Armitage and Strobe Talbott; Grossman's successor as undersecretary of state for political affairs, Nicholas Burns; former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson; and former White House chief of staff John Podesta.