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Veteran diplomat Kristie Kenney retires as Donald Trump moves to gut State Department

Kristie Kenney, former American ambassador to the Philippines and Thailand, has retired from the United States Foreign Service effective April 28. She most recently served as a counselor to former Secretary of State John Kerry.

In a message posted via Twitter, Kenney said that her career “has been filled with amazing opportunities and inspirational people.” She added: “My colleagues at the State Department are brave, dedicated, compassionate. It has been a great honor to serve with you and to serve our nation.”

Kenney has earned a reputation for being a media savvy and outgoing ambassador. In the Philippines and Thailand, for example, she endeared herself to her host country by going out of her way to be present in many public activities including doing outreach in disaster-hit areas. She likewise made regular media appearances – and not just in news programs but even in lifestyle and entertainment shows as well.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Kristie Kenney

Then-US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

A holder of a bachelor’s degree from Clemson University and a master’s degree from Tulane University, Kenney has served as ambassador in three countries: Ecuador (2002 to 2005), Philippines (2006 to 2010), and Thailand (2010 to 2014). In between her diplomatic postings, Kenney held senior positions within the State Department under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Kenney’s apparent early retirement comes amidst a period of transition at the State Department. Shrtly before assuming the presidency, Donald Trump appointed former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

Tillerson’s tenure as Secretary of State has been marked with massive turmoil. First, Tillerson may be an experienced oil executive but he is a novice when it comes with diplomacy. Second, the White House seems to be bent on doing foreign policy directly instead of fully delegating it to the State Department. As The Guardian noted, Trump’s daughter Ivanka has perhaps met the same number of world leaders as Tillerson.

Finally, to say that President Trump disdains  the State Department is an understatement. Last March, his administration proposed a budget cut of nearly 30% against the Foggy Bottom.  That, inevitably, forced the department to implement massive layoffs. Adding insult to injury, Trump and Tillerson are yet to name replacements for nearly hundreds if not thousands of career diplomats like Kenney who either resigned or got fired shortly after the new administration took office.

The departures are all the more alarming as the United States faces uncertainties in the diplomatic front, including North Korea’s flirtation with nuclear technologies, the continued civil war in Syria, as well as China’s belligerent moves to assert its territorial claims.

Needless to say, things would probably not go this way had former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the presidency and not Trump.

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