Trump administration abruptly shutters Afgh-Pak diplomatic office: WP


WASHINGTON, June 24 (TNS): The Trump administration has moved to close the stand-alone State Department office devoted to policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan that was the brainchild of diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, Washington Post reported quoting current and former State Department officials.

The Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan office will be absorbed into the larger State Department division responsible for South and Central Asia, the officials said. The decision was announced to some office staff Thursday evening and took effect Friday, according to the officials, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a decision that had not yet been announced.

Friday was also the last day of work for the office’s current leader and her deputy.

The decision to close the office comes as the administration is conducting a lengthy review of policy toward both Afghanistan andPakistan, and as the Pentagon prepares to send thousands of additional U.S. forces to the war in Afghanistan.

“Whether by design or mismanagement, it leaves the department with no institutional memory on Afghanistan-Pakistan at the very moment when we are on the cusp of surging militarily,” said Dan Feldman, a former director of the office under President Barack Obama. “It’s a recipe for deeper military involvement with no political strategy.”

But the SRAP office, as it was known, had shrunk to about a dozen employees — from nearly 100 at its height — before the end of the Obama administration. Its mission had narrowed, too, from the main diplomatic player overseeing strategy associated with Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan and troubleshooting the difficult U.S. relationship with Pakistan to a group of specialists managing ongoing U.S.programs.

But the sudden timing and the lack of permanent, experienced diplomats in the top jobs overseeing policy for both countries leave the State Department without experienced hands for a region where theUnited States has been at war for 16 years, former employees said.