Kashmir Expert US Diplomat Under Investigation

WASHINGTON: Ambassador Robin Raphel, a veteran American diplomat and long-time Pakistan expert, is under federal investigation as part of a counter-intelligence probe, The Washington Post reported Thursday evening.          

Robin is the former wife of US ambassador Arnold Raphel who was killed aboard a plane carrying Ziaul Haq in 1988.

The Washington Post reported earlier that Raphel is under investigation on counter-intelligence allegations, which typically involves spying for foreign governments. She has been placed on administration leave.

Her contract with the State Department also expired this week. But she has not been charged yet.

The FBI searched Raphel’s Washington home last month, and her State Department office was also examined and sealed, officials told the Post.

The US administration has also withdrawn her security clearances.

“We are aware of this law enforcement matter,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters after the Post released a short version of its story on Thursday evening.

“The State Department has been cooperating with our law enforcement colleagues,” Psaki said.

Robin Lynn Raphel, 67, was serving as coordinator for non-military assistance to Pakistan before the FBI raid.

The investigation began late last month when she was also placed on administrative leave.

Two US officials told the Post the investigation was “a counterintelligence matter, involves allegations of spying on behalf of foreign governments”.

The exact nature of the investigation was not disclosed.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Raphel the first US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, a position created to assist the US government in managing the region, which had two nuclear-weapon states.

Raphel later served as US Ambassador to Tunisia and in the 2000s was appointed to or held a number of official positions related to her expertise on South Asia. She retired from the State Department in 2005 after 30 years of service.

In 2009, she rejoined late US diplomat Richard Holbrooke’s Af-Pak team as a Pakistan expert.

Raphel began her career in the US government as an analyst at the CIA and then moved to the diplomatic corps and assisted USAID in Islamabad as an economics analyst.

In 1978, Raphel returned to the United States and joined the State Department.

She also was a strong advocate for engaging the Taliban, which earned her both praise and scorn in Washington.

Raphel is widely respected in Pakistan for helping improve US relations with the country during difficult periods.

Her emphasis on maintaining good ties with Pakistan and on resolving the Kashmir dispute made her unpopular in India, although she was stationed in New Delhi in her early career.

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