Four key figures who make and carry out U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan are leaving their posts. They are Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, and Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The nation will lose vital experience and perspective in a crucial, dangerous period. Still, it's normal for senior officials to leave during a transition to a different presidential administration, even the second term of an incumbent president. Announcing such departures six months before the election is a little early, but not extraordinary.
Some or all of these departures may reflect the outcome of the vigorous policy debate on Afghanistan and Pakistan policy that preceded President Obama's pronouncements in advance of the recent G-8 and NATO summits. It is not publicly known who took which positions during the debate.
This relatively broad departure of career officials could indicate that some of them saw administration policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan as increasingly influenced by political factors rather than policy judgments. This tends to happen in Washington during presidential campaign years. Good policy can suffer.
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