State RUMINT: Malinowski for State DRL, Sewall for CT or PM


Updated: Two more Clinton administration alums may be tapped for senior State Department posts.

The Obama administration may name Human Rights Watch's Tom Malinowski to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), sources tell the Back Channel. Harvard's Sarah Sewall is also rumored to be up for a top State Department job, with some sources saying the White House has picked her for Counterterrorism Coordinator, others hearing Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.

Sewall, a lecturer at  the Harvard Kennedy School and expert in the field of protecting civilians in wartime, did not respond to queries from the Back Channel. The State Department and White House declined to comment on whether the appointment was in the works.

The Back Channel previously heard that the bureau's Deputy Coordinator Anne Witkowsky was also under consideration for the Counterterrorism Coordinator post, which was formerly held by Daniel Benjamin, who left in January to head Dartmouth's Dickey Center for International Understanding.

Sewall, a member of the Obama/Biden transition team, previously served in the Clinton administration as the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Peacekeeping and as the foreign policy advisor to then Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.

Malinowski, the Washington director for Human Rights Watch, is expected to be nominated to succeed Michael Posner as Assistant Secretary of State for DRL. He did not respond to a query from the Back Channel Friday.

Malinowski previously served as a foreign policy speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, and as a member of the State Department policy planning staff. President Obama on Thursday announced two anticipated nominations: Victoria  Nuland, the recent State Department spokesperson and former Ambassador to NATO, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs; and longtime White House AfPak advisor Douglas Lute to be U.S. Ambassador to NATO, succeeding Ivo Daalder.

Meantime, retired Marine Corps. Gen. John Allen, the former top commander of US-led ISAF forces in Afghanistan and former deputy commander of CentCom, has been appointed US Special Envoy on security issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Haaretz's Barak Ravid reported Thursday.

Update: This post was updated to add some sources hear Sewall may be up for Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military affairs, others that the White House has chosen her for CT Coordinator.

(Top Photo: Sarah Sewall, Harvard Kennedy School; second photo: Tom Malinkowski, Human Rights Watch.)


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  1. Pingback: Kerry staff shifts as State appointments start to gather pace | The Back Channel

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