Washington, Feb 15 (IANS) The Obama administration has picked Marc Grossman, a retired senior diplomat and former ambassador to Turkey, as its new special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, US media reported.
Grossman, who left the State Department in 2005 and is the vice chairman of a consulting firm, will succeed Richard C. Holbrooke, who died of a torn aorta in December, leaving a void in the senior policy-making ranks on one of the White House’s most pressing foreign-policy issues.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Grossman Monday and he was introduced to members of Holbrooke’s staff, the New York Times said citing an unnamed senior State Department official.
Grossman must still undergo a vetting process, the official said, though Clinton may announce his appointment as soon as Friday.
Grossman is currently vice chairman of the Cohen Group, a Washington-based consulting group headed by former US defence secretary and senator William Cohen.
The post has been vacant since December, when the 68-year-old Holbrooke died while being treated at a Washington hospital for a tear in his aorta.
The veteran diplomat’s memorial service the next month drew scores of diplomats and officials, including President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
The latter described Holbrooke as an “extremely hard-working man” who can “get things done (that) would otherwise take weeks to get through”.
Between 2001 and 2005, Grossman served as US undersecretary of state for political affairs, according to his biography on the Cohen Group’s website.
He was assistant secretary of state for European affairs in the three years before that, and between 1994 and 1997 he was the US ambassador to Turkey.
Last July, he penned a report for The German Marshall Fund for the US in which he spoke positively of a plan to turn Afghanistan’s extensive opium poppy fields directly into green biofuel, saying counter-narcotics goals and environmental concerns could be matched by such a project. The fund is a non-partisan American public policy and grantmaking institution.
While serving under then president George W. Bush, Grossman gained headlines in 2002 when he criticised the then-proposed International Criminal Court as “an institution of unchecked power”.
He also testified in the 2007 criminal trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to vice president Dick Cheney, that he had told Libby that Valerie Wilson was a CIA agent.
Libby was convicted of obstructing the FBI investigation into who leaked the covert identity of Wilson, whose husband, Joseph Wilson, wrote a July 2003 New York Times piece accusing George W. Bush’s administration of manipulating intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.