WASHINGTON: US special ambassador to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman is due to step down from his post next month, a State Department spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday.
In the immediate aftermath of Grossman's mid-December departure, his principal deputy David Pearce will take over.
Grossman had taken over the office of special representative after the death of Richard Holbrooke in late 2010. At the time, Grossman was living a retired life and had been asked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to come back and take charge of the vacant hot seat. He had reportedly agreed to do so for a period of two years.
"After almost two years in the position, and with Secretary Clinton's agreement, he will return to private life. The secretary thanks Ambassador Grossman for his efforts to help create the 'diplomatic surge' that Secretary Clinton laid out in her 2011 speech at the Asia Society," State department spokesperson Laura Lucas said on Tuesday.
The spokesperson added that Ambassador Grossman's work has helped set the conditions for a peace process in Afghanistan, that would enable Afghans to talk to each other in efforts to reach a negotiated settlement.
"This has been a major line of effort in support of the President’s objectives to disrupt and defeat al Qaeda and ensure that Afghanistan can no longer become a safe haven for terrorists. Under Ambassador Grossman’s leadership, the United States also has worked to build a relationship with Pakistan based on identifying our shared interests and acting on them jointly. This work will continue."
During his time as special envoy to the region, Grossman oversaw a particularly difficult period in Pakistan's relations with both the US and with Afghanistan.
The special envoy had spearheaded US' efforts to secure international funding and a long term commitment to Afghanistan in the Bonn and Tokyo conferences.
He also oversaw the security partnership agreement between US and Afghanistan which determined the role of US troops in Afghanistan through 2024.
Grossman was also part of the back channel negotiations with the Taliban. Those talks though came unstuck over, among other issues, the transfer of five Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay to relatively relaxed confinement in Qatar.