Political Notebook

Obama to tap veteran envoy for Afghan-Pakistan post

James F. Dobbins is a former ambassador to the European Union.
AFP/Getty Images/File 2001
James F. Dobbins is a former ambassador to the European Union.

WASHINGTON — President Obama is expected to name James F. Dobbins, a veteran diplomat with a history of difficult assignments from Kosovo to Somalia, as his special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, an administration official said Friday.

Dobbins, 70, a former assistant secretary of state for European affairs and ambassador to the European Union, will confront a fraught relationship between Washington and Islamabad, as well as a rapidly dwindling US military presence in Afghanistan.

The special representative post was first held by Richard C. Holbrooke, a diplomat who assembled an extensive staff at the State Department and threw himself into a broad range of political and development issues in Afghanistan.


After Holbrooke’s death in December 2010, the job went to Marc Grossman, another career diplomat who devoted his tenure to efforts, ultimately fruitless, to negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban. Grossman deliberately cultivated a lower profile than Holbrooke, scaling back his staff and negotiating behind closed doors.

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Dobbins, currently the director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center, has plenty of experience with diplomatic troubleshooting, including in Afghanistan. During the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, he served as an envoy to Bosnia, Kosovo, and Haiti, as well as to Somalia, where he oversaw the withdrawal of US troops.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush appointed him as the US representative to the Afghan opposition, and he took part in the Bonn conference in late 2001, at which a new post-Taliban Afghan government was named.


New York Times

White House recalculates spending cuts for agencies

WASHINGTON — The White House budget office is recalculating how to apply automatic spending cuts for a handful of agencies, freeing up almost $4 billion for the Pentagon and another $1 billion or so for other agencies like the Homeland Security Department and NASA.


Capitol Hill aides familiar with the White House changes say the administration has identified almost $5 billion in cuts that can be restored under its reading of the arcane budget rules governing the across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration. The calculations would restore $5 billion of the scheduled $85 billion in automatic sequestration cuts.

The move comes amid increasing public pressure to find ways to lessen the impact of sequestration. Federal agencies are warning that the mandatory cuts could mean cutbacks in services. Last week, Congress passed and President Obama signed legislation giving the Federal Aviation Administration the ability to avoid furloughs that were causing flight delays by tapping money in other accounts. The cuts officially began in March after Congress and Obama could not reach an agreement on a broader budget deal. The automatic cuts had been imposed under a hard-fought 2011 debt and budget pact.


Associated Press

Ala. senator calls legislation for immigration ‘dangerous’

Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who may be the most determined and energetic opponent of an immigration overhaul bill now before the Senate, said Friday that the legislation is ‘‘dangerous’’ for US workers, and he vowed to offer amendments in coming weeks to ‘‘confront the fundamentals of the bill’’ and slow its progress.

On a conference call with reporters, Sessions made it clear that he hopes to reprise the leading role he played in 2007, when he helped rally popular resistance that defeated a similarly sweeping immigration bill by President George W. Bush.


The senator warned that the bill would bring ‘‘explosive growth’’ in immigration, providing work authorization and legal status to more than 30 million immigrants over the next 10 years. Sessions said it would also ‘‘drastically increase low-skill chain migration.’’

He pointed to a fast-track, five-year path to citizenship in the legislation for more than 2 million young immigrants brought here without authorization as children, who call themselves Dreamers. Sessions said that after they gained permanent legal status, those immigrants would be able to bring any of their family members, adding as many as 2 million more immigrants in future years.

New York Times