The Cable

Victoria Nuland to be State Department spokesman

The Cable has confirmed that career Foreign Service officer Victoria "Toria" Nuland will soon be named as the State Department's top spokesperson, the latest in a string of promotions for senior career officers in Foggy Bottom.

Nuland's job will somewhat different than her predecessor P.J. Crowley, who resigned after making off-message comments criticizing the Defense Department's treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning. Unlike Crowley, Nuland will not be dual-hatted as assistant secretary of State for Public Affairs. Former National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer will be officially named to that job soon, a State Department official confirmed.

Hammer is also a career Foreign Service officer who was temporarily assigned to the NSC. He returned to State with another Foreign Service officer who spent time at the White House, Ben Chang. The arrangement will be a new one, where Nuland will conduct the daily briefings and be the point person on dealing with the press, while Hammer will manage the public affairs bureaucracy behind the scenes. We're told that space is being cleared out in the front office on the 6th floor of State Department headquarters that Nuland will soon call home.

"The FSO's run State," one State Department official said, noting the trend of giving career officers high-profile posts.

Nuland has had a long career in the Foreign Service, working for both Democratic and Republican administrations. She is now the special envoy for Conventional Armed Forces in Europe; during the George W. Bush administration, she was the U.S. ambassador to NATO, and before that the principal deputy foreign policy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney.

During the first term of Bill Clinton's administration, she was chief of staff to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and then moved on to serve as deputy director for former Soviet Union affairs.

In an interview, Talbott, now president of the Brookings Institution, praised Nuland as a consummate professional who proved that Foreign Service officers could be trusted to put professionalism over politics.

"Her appointment demonstrates that Secretary Clinton has, quite rightly, an extremely high estimation of the value and confidence in the Foreign Service," Talbott said, "The more use that's made of the foreign policy civil service and the Foreign Service, the better."

He noted Nuland's public role as the U.S. envoy to NATO as evidence she can handle the spotlight and highlighted her roles across several administrations as evidence of her apolitical nature.

"She has a high degree of self confidence and an absolute dedication to working for the administration she is working for, whatever administration that is," Talbot said.

Several State Department officials noted that career civil servants and career Foreign Service officers are on the rise at State. The clearest example is the promotion of Bill Burns to the position of deputy secretary, making him the first career officer to fill that post since Walter Stoessel in 1982.

Burns's replacement for the post of undersecretary of State for Political Affairs is also expected to be a career Foreign Service officer. The smart money is on recently departed Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson, although our sources insist that two others are still under consideration -- former State Department counselor Wendy Sherman and Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens.

Nuland is married to Washington Post columnist Bob Kagan and is the daughter of Yale professor Sherwin B. Nuland. The announcement of her new role is expected this week.

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The Cable

Does John Kerry represent the U.S. government in Pakistan?

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is on a mission in Islamabad to repair the fractured U.S.-Pakistan relationship and, following meetings with top Pakistani officials, issued a statement that appeared to be on behalf of the U.S. and Pakistani governments.

Kerry, as the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an author of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman $7.5 billion aid package to Pakistan, is in a perfect position to convey congressional angst following the discovery that Osama bin Laden had been hiding in Abbottabad, perhaps for over five years. But he holds no position in the executive branch, which would traditionally determine the status of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.

Kerry met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and then issued a "joint statement" from him and those three leaders that seemed to express agreement between the U.S. and Pakistani governments on a wide range of issues.

"It was agreed that both the U.S. and Pakistan must recognize and respect each others national interests, particularly in countering terrorism and in working together for promoting reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan," read the joint statement, which was posted on the website of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad."It was agreed that all tracks of U.S-Pakistan engagement need to be revisited with a view to creating a clear understanding on the ways and means to carry forward their cooperation, in a mutually beneficial manner. It was also agreed that the two countries will work together in any future actions against high value targets in Pakistan."

"Pakistan's leadership welcomed the clear affirmation by Senator Kerry that U.S. policy has no designs against Pakistan's nuclear and strategic assets. Senator Kerry stated that he was prepared to personally affirm such a guarantee," the statement read.

Kerry also announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would travel to Pakistan soon.

Kerry has traveled to both Pakistan and Afghanistan on behalf of the Obama administration before. He played a key role in smoothing relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai last year, and traveled to Lahore in February to help negotiate the repatriation of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, following Davis's killing of two suspected Pakistani intelligence agents in broad daylight.

Meanwhile, the State Department wants to be clear that Kerry does not actually speak for the U.S. government.

"It wasn't a joint statement, it wasn't a U.S. government statement," a State Department official told The Cable.

Nevertheless, Kerry's actions are highly coordinated with the State Department. While Kerry was on the ground, Clinton had phone calls with Zardari, Gilani, and Kayani, a State Department official said, and spoke with Kerry as well.

Kerry is playing an increasingly prominent role in managing the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, relative to that of two other key interlocutors, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and CIA Director Leon Panetta. Panetta, who will be nominated to succeed Defense Secretary Robert Gates, reportedly got into a shouting match last week with Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence.

Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman is also getting more face time with top Pakistani officials. He was on the ground in Islamabad the day bin Laden was killed and will be traveling there again this week with CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell.

Grossman has been trying to set up the third round of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, which was scheduled for late May in Islamabad. At Monday's briefing, however, State Department spokesman Mark Toner wouldn't say if the dialogue would take place then.

"The secretary does plan to visit Pakistan in order to have an in-depth strategic discussion about our cooperation and to convey the U.S. government's views on the way forward with Pakistan," Toner said. "She'll go when she can have those discussions in the right context and with the right preparation. And we're engaged right now with the Pakistanis to lay that groundwork."

Vali Nasr, who until recently was a top Pakistan advisor for the SRAP office, told The Cable that Kerry is playing two roles -- delivering a tough message from Congress while also extending an olive branch from the Obama administration.

"His job is to stabilize the relationship. The U.S.-Pakistan relationship has suffered serious setbacks. It's important to prevent it from collapsing any further," he said.

"We don't really have any option but to continue our relationship with Pakistan. One lesson from the bin Laden discovery is that if al Qaeda senior leaders are in Pakistan, we have even more work to do there."

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