Robert Ford, who has been the U.S. point person on efforts to organize the Syrian opposition, plans to step down in July after two years of work on the issue.
Ford, the U.S. ambassador in Damascus until violence there forced him to relocate to Washington, is due for a job transfer and is exhausted, according to a State Department official who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.
Ford’s departure doesn’t signal any shift in U.S. policy toward Syria, said a second administration official responsible for Mideast policy who asked not to be identified discussing diplomatic matters.
Ford, a career diplomat and Denver native, is known as one of the State Department’s most knowledgeable authorities on the Arab world and speaks five languages. He was the first ambassador the U.S. had sent to Syria in five years when President Barack Obama nominated him in 2010. He was confirmed in 2011.
Ford’s departure isn’t surprising in a department where assignments change every few years, the State Department official said. Ford is now in Turkey, trying to help the fractious opposition diversify its membership.
The administration’s efforts to unify the various groups opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been stymied by infighting and power squabbles among the groups.
It’s not known who will replace Ford.
The current Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, is expected to be nominated as the State Department’s next Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs, a third official said. Patterson previously held a critical diplomatic post representing the U.S. in Pakistan from July 2007 to October 2010.
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