The Cable

Wendy Sherman emerges as top pick for State’s No. 3 post

Former State Department counselor Wendy Sherman, a long time confidant of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has emerged as the "leading candidate" to replace Bill Burns as the third-highest ranking official in Foggy Bottom, according to two State Department officials.

Sherman, currently the vice chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, was counselor to Secretary of State Madeline Albright, where she also held the role of North Korean policy coordinator. She served as assistant secretary of State for legislative affairs from 1993 to 1996 under Secretary of State Warren Christopher. She is also chair of the board of directors of Oxfam America and serves on the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Policy Board.

Sherman is a long time friend of Clinton's and was a major part of her nomination preparation and transition teams, one State Department official said. She served as an agency review lead for the State Department's transition after the 2008 election along with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. And, as an official with some experience dealing with East Asia she will help to fill the void being left by the departing Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, the current No. 2.

Steinberg is leaving to take over as dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. He will be replaced by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns. The short list for Burns' replacement included Sherman and former Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson, but President Barack Obama announced last week he intended to nominate Patterson as ambassador to Egypt.

We're told that the Sherman appointment is not a 100 percent done deal, but very close. If confirmed, she would be a political appointee taking over a job that is normally filled by a career foreign service officer. But Burns, a career foreign service officer, is taking over a job normally reserved for a political appointee, so the general balance of the leadership atop the State Department between politicos and diplomats would remain roughly the same.

Burns, who has been integral to the State Department's response to the Arab revolutions, had his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

"We have our share of problems, but it is a mistake to underestimate our enduring strengths and our capacity to do big and difficult things," Burns said in his hearing. "That capacity will be tested in the months and years ahead."

The Cable

Senators to Clinton: Tell Pakistan to halt export of bomb materials

The State Department should press Pakistan to stop the flow of dangerous chemicals that are used to make the roadside bombs that are killing U.S. and allied troops in Pakistan and Afghanistan, 20 U.S. senators wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"We are writing to request that you encourage Pakistani officials to stem the flow of ammonium nitrate into Afghanistan where it is used in improvised explosive devices to kill U.S. troops," states the May 23 letter, led by Sens. Robert Casey (D-PA) and Carl Levin (D-MI). "IEDs have also increasingly become a problem in Pakistan and we urge you to stress this common threat in your meetings with Pakistan's civilian and military leaders."

The State Department hasn't announced whether Clinton will visit Pakistan this month, as was scheduled before the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, but an administration official told The Cable that the trip is on. The dates are being held from the public due to security concerns.

Clinton was supposed to lead the third round of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, which is meant to advance the bilateral relationship. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman traveled to Islamabad last week to help set up the talks, but he was also there to press Pakistan to announce goodwill gestures following the discovery of bin Laden in Abbottabad. Clinton's trip will also likely be a mix of both missions.

Specifically, the senators want Pakistan to pass legislation regulating bomb-making chemicals, step up customs enforcement on the Afghan border, and increase public education on the dangers of ammonium nitrate.

"In the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, we believe that Pakistan must implement concrete measures, to counter terrorism. Removing ammonium nitrate from the terrorist arsenal is one such good faith measure that is also in Pakistan's national security interest," the senators wrote.