WASHINGTON: The State Department's top diplomat on Syria is planning to retire.
State Department officials said Tuesday that Ambassador Robert Ford has told friends and associates that he plans to leave by the end of February.
His departure will leave the administration without one of its key advisers and negotiators on a diplomatic front that remains a top security priority and headache for the White House.
Ford has been ambassador to Syria since January 2011, but has not lived in Damascus since February 2012, when the State Department suspended embassy operations there.
The officials who confirmed his departure said there's a slight possibility Ford might stay for another job. None of the officials were authorized to be identified by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.