KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (BNO NEWS) -- Veteran U.S. diplomat Ryan Crocker, who came out of retirement in July 2011 to become the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, will step down from his post this summer due to unspecified health reasons.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Crocker, 62, informed the Afghan government, U.S. Mission Afghanistan, and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on Tuesday that he intends to depart his post for health reasons in mid-summer, following the Kabul and Tokyo conferences.
"Ambassador Crocker's tenure has been marked by enormous achievements," said Nuland, who refused to give specific details about the health reasons which prompted the veteran envoy to step down a year earlier than planned. "He wanted to make it clear that this should not in any way be seen as a lessening of his personal commitment and our national commitment, obviously, to Afghanistan," she said. "I think his heart will always be a little bit in Afghanistan."
Deputy U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham, who is also a former ambassador to Israel and deputy UN envoy, is seen as a potential successor to replace Crocker. "Ambassador Cunningham is going to steer the ship in the interim," Nuland said. "With regard to who the White House may nominate for the Senate's advice and consent, I obviously don't have anything for you on that."
Crocker, who has served as ambassador to Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon in the past, came out of retirement in July 2011 following a personal request from U.S. President Barack Obama. "The President is enormously grateful for that, for Ambassador Crocker's hugely valuable service to this country and his long career in Afghanistan, in Iraq and previous posts," White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday.
Carney added: "[Crocker] has done an extraordinary job in this current post, and he has been a key part of the implementation of the President's strategy in Afghanistan. That strategy will continue, obviously. The leadership team is strong, and the President looks forward to the further implementation of his strategy, as we just discussed over the weekend at the NATO summit."
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