New envoys named to Pakistan, Afghanistan

July 17, 2012 at 9:50 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 17 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama named two senior diplomats as ambassadors to Pakistan and Afghanistan, both difficult assignments in the current environment.

U.S. relations with Pakistan, a key partner in the fight against terrorism, remain strained since U.S. forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan in May 2011, while in Afghanistan, the United States faces escalating Taliban violence as it prepares to end combat operations after a decade-long war by 2014 and bring home its troops.

Obama Tuesday named Richard G. Olson as ambassador to Pakistan and James B. Cunningham as envoy to Afghanistan, the White House announced.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Olson would succeed Cameron Munter, and Cunningham would replace Ryan Crocker.

Olson, who graduated from Brown University, has been a career diplomat, having previously been ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and deputy chief of U.S. mission at NATO headquarters in Brussels. He has held diplomatic assignments in Mexico, Uganda, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Najaf, Iraq. Olson has also served at the embassy in Kabul.

Cunningham, also a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is a graduate of Syracuse University and is currently deputy ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Previously, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel and consul general in Hong Kong, and has held assignments at the United Nations and Italy, and as director of the State Department's Office of European Security and Political Affairs.

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