In appointing Marc Grossman as the new special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States is turning to a consummate diplomat who may change tact in two deeply complex relationships.
Grossman's methodical, behind-the-scenes approach marks the polar opposite from that of his hard-charging predecessor Richard Holbrooke, who relished his role on the center-stage and rarely hesitated to ruffle feathers.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Grossman's appointment during a speech in New York in memory of Holbrooke, who suddenly died of a torn aorta in December at age 69.
Grossman "knows our allies and understands how to mobilize common action to meet shared challenges," Clinton said at the Asia Society. "I am absolutely confident in his ability to hit the ground running."
Grossman, a Los Angeles native, served at the US embassy in Pakistan from 1977 to 1979 and rose steadily through the ranks of the US Foreign Service. He assisted Holbrooke in the Dayton peace talks that ended the Bosnian war.
Grossman served as undersecretary of state for political affairs -- the top position for a career diplomat -- from 2001 to 2005, when he faced the tough challenge of mending US relationships overseas during the Iraq war.
While Grossman has managed the inner workings of the State Department, Holbrooke brazenly skirted the hierarchy. When appointed at the start of President Barack Obama's administration, diplomats wondered whether Holbrooke was overriding the authority of embassies in Islamabad and Kabul.
Holbrooke had an uneasy relationship both with some US military officers running the Afghan war and with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was widely accused of rigging 2009 elections.