WASHINGTON – James Dobbins, the U.S. State Department's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, will leave the position this month, the agency said Tuesday.
Dobbins' departure comes as Afghanistan is struggling to determine the results of its presidential election, a process that has been undermined by fraud allegations. The announcement also comes a little more than a month after the U.S. released five Taliban fighters from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the 72-year-old Dobbins, who came out of retirement last year, has "a lot to be proud of."
Kerry noted: "He has been at the forefront of our work in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has played an outsized role on the ground negotiating the (bilateral security agreement), helping with preparations for historic elections, growing our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan and planning for a transition for the Afghan people after more than a decade of progress."
The delay in the Afghan voting results has undermined hopes for a smooth transfer of power ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. and allied combat troops by the end of 2014, although both of the candidates vying to replace Afghan President Hamid Karzai have promised to sign a bilateral security agreement that would allow nearly 10,000 American forces to remain in the country.
The State Department said Kerry called Karzai on Tuesday "to reaffirm U.S. support for the Afghan election process, and to urge measures to address the concerns of individual candidates."
Dobbins will be replaced by his deputy, Daniel Feldman, whose relationship with the secretary of state dates back to Kerry's 2004 presidential run.
Kerry said Feldman "will be our eyes and ears as we continue to build the capacity of the Afghan people (and) as we work to continue building on our partnership with the still relatively new civilian government in Pakistan."