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Engel & Asia Subcommittee Democrats to Trump: Appoint an Assistant Secretary for South & Central Asia

ENGEL & ASIA SUBCOMMITTEE DEMOCRATS TO TRUMP: APPOINT AN ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR SOUTH & CENTRAL ASIA

Key Post Has Remained Vacant More than Two Years

Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today led all Democratic members of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation in calling on President Trump to appoint an Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. The position has remained without a confirmed appointee since the beginning of the Trump Administration, hampering the State Department’s ability to conduct diplomacy and shape policy in a critical region of the world.

The members wrote, “The State Department’s lack of senior-level involvement on a variety of matters related to South Asia has been deeply disturbing.  From the failure of the Department’s senior officials to engage directly with Sri Lankan government officials during the country’s October-December 2018 constitutional crisis, to the Department’s failure to form a coherent India policy, to the mishandling of the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship in the midst of seeking a peace deal with the Taliban, it is clear that American leadership -- when it is needed most -- is missing in action. We believe that these failures are at least in part the result of not having a confirmed Assistant Secretary.”

In addition to Chairman Engel, the letter was signed by Rep. Brad Sherman, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation; Rep. Dina Titus; Rep. Chrissy Houlahan; Rep. Gerald E. Connolly; Rep. Ami Bera; Rep. Andy Levin; and Rep. Abigail Spanberger.

Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.

 

Dear Mr. President:

We are deeply concerned by your failure, more than two years into your term, to name and have confirmed an Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs at the Department of State.  The absence of a confirmed official to lead the Department’s efforts at advancing some of American’s most important relationships, including with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, has had a demonstrably negative impact on U.S. interests and regional stability in South Asia.

The State Department’s lack of senior-level involvement on a variety of matters related to South Asia has been deeply disturbing.  From the failure of the Department’s senior officials to engage directly with Sri Lankan government officials during the country’s October-December 2018 constitutional crisis, to the Department’s failure to form a coherent India policy, to the mishandling of the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship in the midst of seeking a peace deal with the Taliban, it is clear that American leadership -- when it is needed most -- is missing in action. We believe that these failures are at least in part the result of not having a confirmed Assistant Secretary. 

We laud the performance of acting officials and career personnel at the State Department who have covered South Asia while there has been no Senate-approved leadership of the Bureau.  However, while acceptable for relatively brief periods of time, having no Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian more than two years into your term is not acceptable.

We understand that candidates with deep South Asia experience in and outside of the State Department have been considered for the Assistant Secretary position, so it is difficult to understand why it remains unfilled.  We strongly urge you to nominate a qualified individual to fill this critical Assistant Secretary position as soon as possible.