The Cable

The Cable goes inside the foreign policy machine, from Foggy Bottom to Turtle Bay, the White House to Embassy Row.

Names: Musical chairs in Holbrooke’s shop

The Cable has confirmed that Frank Ruggiero, the top U.S. civilian in southern Afghanistan, will come back to Washington to be a deputy to Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for the region formerly known as Af-Pak. Ruggiero’s move is motivated by his desire to return to a somewhat normal lifestyle after putting in some hard ...

569592_100427_Ruggiero2.jpg
569592_100427_Ruggiero2.jpg

The Cable has confirmed that Frank Ruggiero, the top U.S. civilian in southern Afghanistan, will come back to Washington to be a deputy to Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for the region formerly known as Af-Pak.

Ruggiero's move is motivated by his desire to return to a somewhat normal lifestyle after putting in some hard work in Kabul. He's seen as a competent manager who can bring some first-hand Afghanistan observations back into the DC policy process.

The Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman broke the news of the Ruggiero move and had this context to add:

The Cable has confirmed that Frank Ruggiero, the top U.S. civilian in southern Afghanistan, will come back to Washington to be a deputy to Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for the region formerly known as Af-Pak.

Ruggiero’s move is motivated by his desire to return to a somewhat normal lifestyle after putting in some hard work in Kabul. He’s seen as a competent manager who can bring some first-hand Afghanistan observations back into the DC policy process.

The Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman broke the news of the Ruggiero move and had this context to add:

Ruggiero is a well-respected career civil servant who’s worked with the Department of Commerce as well as the State Department, where he’s most recently been at the top of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs before heading to Afghanistan last summer. As part of the “civilian uplift,” Ruggiero has established and coordinated small teams of civilians in Helmand and Kandahar provinces known as District Support Teams to embed with NATO military battalions in order to assist Afghan officials with delivering services for local citizens in order to reduce the demand for the Taliban’s shadow governance.

So what does that mean for Holbrooke’s existing two deputies, Dan Feldman and Paul Jones? Well, we’ve confirmed that Feldman isn’t going anywhere. For Jones, the future is still unclear. Holbrooke’s office is notoriously secretive about personnel matters and declined to tell us what would happen next. But here’s what we’ve been able to learn.

Dual-hatted as both Holbrooke’s deputy and deputy assistant secretary for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Jones plays a unique role as a link between Holbrooke’s staff and that of Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Robert Blake. The relationship between the two offices hasn’t always been rosy.

Some of our sources say that it would be natural for Jones to move on and he is rumored to be up for an ambassadorship, probably in East or Southeast Asia. Jones has been a Foreign Service officer for a long time, with stints in Asia, Europe, and Latin America, and has done enough to earn an ambassadorship, these sources say, while cautioning that no final decisions have been made.

The White House never discusses potential nominations and the State Department worries that premature announcements could complicate Senate confirmations, so there’s no confirmation of Jones’s promotion as of now.

But we took a look around the region and talked to Asia experts to see where Jones might end up. Since he was once deputy chief of mission in the Philippines, that seemed logical, but the administration has just won confirmation of Harry Thomas, who is on the way there now.

Thailand and South Korea are prestigious postings, but Bangkok Ambassador Eric John and Seoul envoy Kathy Stephens aren’t near the end of their tours yet and are expected to remain for a while.

The Singapore slot was open, but just got filled by David Adelman. Indonesia is coming open, but State already has someone else in mind for that one. So that leaves the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia, which is currently without an ambassador, or the top spot in Laos, which is said to be opening up soon. Both typically go to career FSOs.

Until that all gets decided, and pending what’s always an arduous Senate confirmation process, Holbrooke will have three deputies.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.