US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan quits post

Post falls vacant as US prepares to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan.
Laurel Miller's responsibilities will now fall under the state department’s South and Central Asian Affairs Bureau, which has a much bigger footprint that includes India. Paul J Richards / AFP
Laurel Miller's responsibilities will now fall under the state department’s South and Central Asian Affairs Bureau, which has a much bigger footprint that includes India. Paul J Richards / AFP

WASHINGTON // Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan has stepped down just as the United States is preparing to send thousands more troops to the region.

Acting special representative Laurel Miller left the post without a replacement being named, and secretary of state Rex Tillerson has not yet decided what to do with post, the state department said.

The office was created when US officials decided that the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan were inextricably linked and ought to be dealt with together.

State department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Mr Miller was returning to a position at the Rand Corporation.

President Donald Trump came to office planning to slash diplomatic spending and Mr Tillerson plans to cut several special envoy roles.

Mr Miller’s responsibilities will now fall under the state department’s South and Central Asian Affairs Bureau, which has a much bigger footprint that includes India. But this bureau is itself leaderless, with no assistant secretary appointed to lead it and no one nominated by the new administration for senate approval.

When news site Politico said the envoy post had gone, it cited diplomats complaining of a rushed process and a dangerous leadership vacuum.

But a senior official said the decision was part of a broader policy review.

Mr Tillerson thinks the issue is best handled at a regional level, the official said, arguing that it made sense to consider India part of the equation.

Trump has given the Pentagon and US commanders wide latitude to decide on the future of Washington’s longest ever war — the 16-year slog in Afghanistan.

The US defence secretary Jim Mattis is reportedly planning to deploy up to 5,000 extra troops to bolster efforts to train Afghan forces to repel a resurgent Taliban insurgency.

* Agence France-Presse

Published: June 24, 2017 04:00 AM

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