I was just weeks into my time as Secretary when Bill Burns, Tom Donilon, and I sat down with the President to think about the right person to lead this effort during what we knew would be a year of big decisions for Afghanistan and Pakistan. We quickly decided that Jim Dobbins would be the right person if we could lure him out of retirement from the Foreign Service. Jim cut his teeth as a young Foreign Service officer working the Paris Peace Talks during the Vietnam War, played a vital role in the Balkans, and is forever known as the guy who raised the first flag over our Embassy in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban. He is simply one of the finest foreign service officers of his generation, a man who has dedicated his life to public service and earned respect throughout the region and in Washington. He has been at the forefront of our work in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has played an outsized role on the ground negotiating the BSA, making 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.
Last year when we asked Jim to come back to the Department take on this role, I asked him to give us a year of service. He agreed. And because he's who he is, he gave us more than that both in the quality and the longevity of his commitment. He's got a lot to be proud of. His relationship with President Karzai was invaluable, particularly at difficult moments, and he departs at a time when both of Afghanistan’s presidential candidates have been unwavering in their commitment to sign the BSA. I am grateful for his service and look forward to his counsel in the months ahead.
I am equally confident in the public servant we have asked to serve as the next Special Representative, Daniel Feldman. I’ve known Dan since 2003 when he joined my presidential campaign in its earliest days, and my respect for him only deepened during the years I served as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee when Dan often traveled with me to Afghanistan and Pakistan. My friend Richard Holbrooke thought so highly of Dan that he quickly made him his Deputy in 2009, and for the last five years, Dan has been not just a mainstay of our diplomatic engagement with Afghanistan and Pakistan, but one of its most thoughtful architects. He has also played a particularly central role in strengthening our relationship with Pakistan. Now Dan is charged him with the same mandate as his esteemed predecessors: to align, focus, and implement policies and programs that support our national security interests in a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan and Pakistan. To this important effort, he brings not only continuity and vital institutional muscle memory, but creativity and leadership at a critical moment. I am absolutely confident Dan will help us build on the gains we have made.