U.S. Point Man on Syria to Step Down

Photograph by Win McNamee/Getty Images

U.S. Ambassador to the Syrian Arab Republic, Robert Ford, testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill on April 11, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Ambassador Robert Ford, the Obama administration’s point person on efforts to organize the Syrian opposition, will step down in July after a grueling two years of work on the issue.

Ford, who was the ambassador in Damascus until violence forced him to relocate to Washington, D.C., is exhausted, a State Department aid said. The career diplomat is known as one of State’s top experts on the Arab world and speaks five languages.

Ford was the first ambassador to Syria that the U.S. had sent in five years when President Barack Obama nominated him in 2010.

The soft-spoken Ford, a Denver native, was confirmed in 2011. His departure isn’t surprising in a department where assignments change every few years.

Ford is now in Turkey, trying to help the fractious opposition diversify its membership. (Read the latest on the Syrian civil war here.)

It’s not clear who will replace Ford. The current ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, is expected to be nominated as the department’s next assistant secretary of near Eastern affairs. Patterson previously held a critical diplomatic post representing the U.S. in Pakistan from July 2007 to October 2010.

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