President Obama Withdraws Nomination of FSO Katherine Dhanani as Ambassador to Somalia

Posted: 11:08 am EDT
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On May 11, the WH posted a notice of a withdrawal sent to the Senate on the nomination of Katherine Dhanani, President Obama’s nominee as the first U.S. Ambassador to Somalia in 24 years. An administration official reportedly told Voice of America that Katherine Dhanani, a career diplomat with experience serving across Africa, “turned down the nomination for personal reasons and that Obama will have to find another candidate.”  “She is withdrawing for personal reasons,” an unnamed administration official told AFP.  Could be the same administration official, telling reporters the same talking point.

WITHDRAWAL SENT TO THE SENATE:

Katherine Simonds Dhanani, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Somalia, which was sent to the Senate on February 25, 2015.

Ms. Dhanani was officially nominated by President Obama on February 24, 2015. (See President Obama Nominates FSO Katherine S. Dhanani as First Ambassador to Somalia Since 1991).  A month later, she had her confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC).  See her prepared testimony here (pdf).  As of the withdrawal date of her nomination, she has been waiting a total of 46 days for confirmation.

We don’t know what’s going on here but if you have to turn down the president for “personal reasons,” that typically happens before the nomination is announced and certainly before the confirmation process starts rolling.  What makes this even odd is this would have been the diplomat’s first ambassadorial appointment, the culminating point of a diplomatic career.

When Secretary Kerry made a surprise visit to Somalia recently, there was no indication that the then nominee was in his party.  What would have made sense was a quick confirmation so the nominee could have accompanied the secretary on his first ever trip to Mogadishu.  After all, she already had her confirmation hearing.  But that did not happen, why?

When asked about congressional and SFRC reaction to the Somalia trip, a Senior Administration Official told the traveling press corps, “I think it’ll be very positive.”

It’s so very positive that here we are barely a week after that Somalia trip and the White House has now withdrawn the nominee for the first ambassador to Somalia in two decades.

Was the SFRC upset enough to refused endorsement of this nomination that the WH has little recourse but to withdraw the nomination and start over?

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