The Trump administration on Friday moved to eliminate the State Department unit responsible for dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan — transferring its duties to a regional bureau whose leadership ranks have been decimated, two sources told POLITICO.
The development came with less than a day’s notice. It deeply rattled U.S. officials who say the shift leaves unclear who is responsible for handling diplomacy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan at a time when the Trump administration is considering ramping up military efforts in that region.
The phase-out of the office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) was put in motion under the Obama administration. But diplomats are concerned that the Trump administration has yet to name people to lead the South and Central Asia Bureau, leaving a leadership vacuum. That State Department bureau has seen unusually high levels of senior staff departures since Trump’s inauguration in January.
“The Afghanistan and Pakistan function is being dissolved and transferred into a structure that has been dissolved itself,” a U.S. diplomat familiar with the issue told POLITICO. “We’ve long planned for SRAP to go away, but the intention was for the policy to be transferred responsibly. This happened on less than 24 hours notice.”
The State Department press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.