WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday tapped a career diplomat to temporarily replace the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Egypt, who is leaving Cairo amid the Obama administration’s ongoing review of American assistance to the country.
David Satterfield, who has previously served as ambassador to Lebanon and held numerous senior Middle East-related positions at the White House and State Department, will serve as charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, replacing Anne Patterson, who departed on Friday. Satterfield will serve as the top American envoy to Egypt until a new ambassador is nominated and confirmed by the Senate.
Satterfield is currently director general of the multinational force in the Sinai and plans to return to that position later this year after his stint in Cairo, the State Department said. Kerry has recommended that the current U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, take the Egypt post, but his nomination is still being vetted by the White House.
Patterson, who is returning to Washington because she has been nominated to be the new assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, had been in Cairo for two years and had been the target of much criticism from Egyptians who accused her of taking sides in the country’s recent political tumult, which has led to the administration’s review of the $1.6 billion in aid the U.S. provides annually to Egypt.
Ahead of her departure, Patterson fired off a harshly critical letter to the editor of Egypt’s main state-run newspaper, which had published an article claiming she was part of a conspiracy to divide and destabilize the country. The letter, posted on the Cairo embassy’s website, described the article as “outrageous, fictitious, and thoroughly unprofessional.”
“This article isn’t bad journalism; it isn’t journalism at all,” she wrote to the editor of al-Ahram. “It is fiction, serving only to deliberately misinform the Egyptian public. Such articles make a successful future for Egypt all the harder to achieve through the propagation of lies and fear.”
In a statement, the State Department praised Patterson for her service in Cairo, saying she had “worked tirelessly … to support U.S.-Egyptian relations and the democratic transition the Egyptian people desire.”