The PJ Tatler

Obama's Pick for Somalia Ambassador Withdraws Nod After Kerry's Mogadishu Drop-In

The State Department today said there’s nothing amiss in the withdrawal of President Obama’s pick to be ambassador to Somalia just after Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit there.

Obama nominated career Foreign Service official Katherine Dhanani to the post on Feb. 25. She was to be the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since the embassy shut its doors in 1991.

On May 5, Kerry became the first secretary of State to visit Somalia in a brief series of meetings at the airport in Mogadishu. “The next time I come, we have to be able to just walk downtown,” Kerry declared during the drop-by.

On Monday, the White House announced that Dhanani had withdrawn her nomination for the post.

“This was a decision made by the nominee for personal family reasons. Our policy on Somalia has not changed, so there’s no news to report on that. This was simply a decision for personal reasons,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said today.

“We have a unit at our embassy in Nairobi now that covers issues related to Somalia. So we are already – we are following now Somali issues from our embassy in Nairobi. This nomination was with the Senate. It had not been – it had not come to a vote, so I would refer you to the White House on any specific decisions about a new nominee. They will have the lead on that. But this in no way changes the commitment that the United States Government has to Somalia and the specific steps that the Secretary mentioned when he was in Mogadishu,” Rathke added.

“I think [Kerry], as you will recall, he also said at that time that we didn’t have a fixed timeline for having an on-the-ground diplomatic presence in Mogadishu.”

Rathke acknowledged that the nomination withdrawal came “in just the last couple of days subsequent to the secretary’s visit.”

“But I think the secretary’s visit to Mogadishu is a clear testimony to our commitment to the progress that’s been made in Somalia and to continuing to support it, and to doing so by having an enhanced presence in Mogadishu.”