By Elise Labott, reporting from Jerusalem
Robert Ford, the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, is expected to leave his post in July, a senior State Department official said.
The move was expected and does not signify a policy shift on Syria, as his term was due to end, the official said.
His departure from the post is considered part of the regular shuffle of ambassadors, which takes place during the summer, the official said.
Ford was pulled from Damascus in October 2011 due to "credible threats against his personal safety," the State Department said at the time.
By Jamie Crawford
While Syrian rebel forces have made significant military advances on the ground against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in recent days, the U.S. ambassador to Syria says there's no imminent end to the fighting.
"It's very clear to me that the regime's forces are being ground down," Robert Ford said Thursday at a conference sponsored by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington. "That said, the regime's protection units continue to maintain some cohesion, and they still have some fight left in them, even though they are losing. I expect there will be substantial fighting in the days ahead."
The fighting has taken a more severe turn in the last week, with U.S. officials now concerned the Syria's president could use chemical weapons out of desperation. This intensifying 20-month conflict has frustrated those who have long argued that the U.S. should intervene militarily.
By Elise Labott
One telltale sign a country is on the verge of collapse is when the U.S. embassy shutters its doors and gets out of Dodge. That threshold has now been crossed in Syria.
After weeks of pleading with Syrian authorities to beef up protection of the U.S. Embassy to no avail, the State Department was forced to pull out its skeleton staff and close the embassy. Most of the staff members were evacuated earlier in the year, and the diplomatic team was further reduced last month.
The decision to close the embassy is a big one, one not made easily. U.S. officials insist the move does not mean Washington is severing relations with Damascus.
But even though the United States isn't ending diplomatic ties, it will be sure to look that way on the surface - especially given the very public calls by everyone in the Obama administration, from the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on down - for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. FULL POST