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Meeting a Difficult Challenge with the Promise of Progress

(December 2005)

When Ronald Neumann (’66, ’67 M.A.) was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on July 27, 2005, he brought a lifetime of experience to the job.

After graduation from UCR with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1966 and a master’s degree in political science in 1967, Neumann traveled extensively to Afghanistan, where his father, Robert G. Neumann, was serving as ambassador.

He received the Bronze Star while serving in the Army in Vietnam and began working for the United States Department of State in 1970. His resume reads like a diplomatic roadmap of political service: he served as an ambassador in Algeria and Bahrain and is a former deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Near East Affairs. He has also served as deputy chief of mission in Abu Dhabi and Sanaa, principal officer in Tabriz, economic/commercial officer in Dakar, director of the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs, chief of mission in Manama, Bahrain, and most recently as Embassy Baghdad’s principal liaison with the Multinational Command. He speaks both Arabic and French.

Those experiences will no doubt serve him well in a country that has experienced decades of turbulence and conflict.

One of his first challenges came on Sept. 18 when the country held its first legislative elections since 1969. Despite a Taliban boycott and militant attacks, millions of Afghans went to the polls to cast their votes.

Speaking to CNN a day after the elections, Neumann called the elections a “significant ... advance on the road to democracy.”

During his swearing-in ceremony, Neumann talked about the opportunity for further progress.

“I am honored to help lead a team of courageous and dedicated civilian and military personnel towards securing Afghanistan’s long-term security, democracy and prosperity,” he said. “Our success in Afghanistan, which will ensure that the country will never again be a safe haven for terrorists, is pivotal to our overall success in the global struggle with terrorism.”

Neumann, who is married and has two adult children, is the first diplomat since the establishment of the modern State Department to have served as ambassador to the same country as his father. Robert Neumann served as ambassador to Afghanistan from 1966 to 1973.

Speaking at Neumann’s July swearing-in ceremony, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told those in attendance that she and President Bush felt that Neumann’s extensive background made him the obvious choice for the position.

“Because Ron has this very special set of skills – the ability to work in difficult circumstances, the ability to work in an environment that is still transitioning from war to peace, the ability to work hand-in-hand with our military, our partner, in bringing about a stable and prosperous Afghanistan . . . I know that he’s going to lead the men and women of our Embassy in Kabul with the same dedication and caring that he brought to his other jobs,” she said.

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