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US Envoy to Afghanistan-Pakistan Named After Outcry Over Expected Office Closure


FILE - The U.S. ambassador to Jordan, Alice Wells, shakes hands with Syrian refugees ahead of their departure to the United States, Aug. 28, 2016.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently named Alice Wells, a career Foreign Service Officer (FSO), as the acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, a spokesperson confirmed to VOA on Thursday.

Wells, the acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, will work to integrate the operations of the two offices.

The State Department is at the beginning of a process to determine the bureaucratic and management steps required.

The appointment came with little fanfare at a time when there is increasing attention on the expected closure of Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP), which is part of the planned downsizing and restructuring of the State Department.

Critics said it prompted confusion about U.S. diplomacy in the region where nearly 10,000 American troops are deployed.

Wells assumed the duties June 26, according to the State Department.

The appointment also came at a time when President Donald Trump's administration is reviewing the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The discussion of "South Asia strategy" includes the possibility of sending more troops to Afghanistan, as well as examining new ideas in Washington's dealings with Pakistan.

"Ambassador Wells is ensuring that the department's approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan is integrated within our broader approach to the region," a State Department spokesperson told VOA.

"Ambassador Wells brings over 28 years of experience as a career Foreign Service Officer to the position. She was previously U.S. Ambassador to Jordan and has also served in Islamabad, New Delhi, Moscow, Riyadh, Dushanbe, at the White House, and throughout the department," the spokesperson added.

Laurel Miller, the State Department's former acting special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan who was on loan from the RAND Corp., left the office of SRAP June 23.

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