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Obama chooses John Kerry for secretary of State. How might he do?

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That “stature” would also serve Kerry well in the difficult task of following in the footsteps of Secretary Clinton, who has enjoyed – and employed – the rock-star status she’s gained around the world.   

Many international experts cite Kerry’s productive forays into some of the toughest diplomatic thickets as a quiet Obama envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years as evidence of his potential effectiveness.

“He combined a presence and stature and a skill at conducting personal relations with difficult people that bodes well for his ability to carry out the duties of secretary of State, should he be so named,” says James Dobbins, a former special US envoy to Afghanistan, speaking in particular of Kerry’s dealings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2009.

Kerry would later be sent by Obama several times to repair crumbling relations with Pakistan, including to negotiate the release of a CIA contractor detained in the killings of two Pakistanis, and in the tense days after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

In his dealings with Mr. Karzai – who is famously hard to work with – Kerry “exhibited an evenness of temper and a degree of patience” that not all senior US officials have been able to muster when working with the Afghan leader, says Mr. Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corp. in Arlington, Va.

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