Peter Tomsen is a retired United States ambassador. He was Special Envoy and Ambassador on Afghanistan (1989-1992), Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (1993-1995) and Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia (1995-1998).

Education and the Peace Corps
Peter Tomsen was born on November 19, 1940 in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1962, he received an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Wittenberg University in Ohio.  He was awarded a Heinz fellowship for graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh, obtaining a master’s degree there in public and international affairs in 1964.  Tomsen joined the Peace Corps in 1964, studied Nepali, and taught civics and English at a newly-founded 80-student college in a Himalayan town in western Nepal. He extended his Peace Corps service for six months to be headmaster of a Tibetan refugee school.  Tomsen passed the Foreign Service written and oral examination in 1966 and was sworn in as a Foreign Service officer in January 1967.

Department of State
Ambassador Tomsen’s thirty-two year diplomatic career emphasized South and Central Asia, Northeast Asia and the former Soviet Union. He began his career as a junior economic officer on the Thai Desk in 1967. He was a third-secretary in the political-military section of the American embassy in Bangkok for six months that same year before volunteering for service in Vietnam.  During 1968, he studied Vietnamese for eleven months in Washington. He was then assigned to the American government’s military-civilian advisory group in Vietnam, known by its acronym CORDS. During 1969-1970, Tomsen was a District Senior Advisor to a South Vietnamese Lieutenant-Colonel in Lich Hoi Tuong District, Ba Xuyen Province, Mekong Delta, where he led a thirteen-man military advisory team.

After rotating back to the State Department in September 1970, he studied Hindi-Urdu for ten months. For the next five years, he served as a consular officer, staff assistant to the ambassador, and political officer at the American embassy in New Delhi, reporting on Indian domestic politics. In 1973, his India assignment was interrupted by orders to return to Vietnam for six months in the aftermath of the January 27, 1973 Kissinger-Le Duc Tho Paris Peace Accords on Vietnam. Tomsen and some twenty other State Department Vietnamese linguists reported on the (aborted) ceasefire agreement in the continuing Vietnam War, Tomsen from the three southernmost provinces of IV Corps.

The Department of State next assigned Tomsen to study Russian in Washington. After ten months of language training, he was posted to the Political Section of the American embassy in Moscow. He concentrated on Soviet policies in Asia, with particular attention to Sino-Soviet relations and their implications for American strategy towards both countries. He followed up the Moscow posting with two years of Chinese Language School, the first in Washington, the second in Taipei, Taiwan, where he was simultaneously principal of the school and a student.

From 1981 to 1983, Tomsen was the deputy political counselor at the American embassy in Beijing. He was one of the four members of the embassy team that secretly negotiated the August 17, 1982 Taiwan arms communiqué—one of three communiqués that have together formed the foundation of Sino-American relations into the twenty-first century. After his 1983 promotion into the Senior Foreign Service, Tomsen attended the Senior Seminar for senior executives in the national security apparatus. From late 1983 to 1985, he led the State Department’s office of Indian, Nepali and Sri Lankan affairs. He served as Deputy Chief of Mission to Ambassador Winston Lord at the American embassy in Beijing, 1985-1989.

In March, 1989, the George H.W. Bush administration summoned Tomsen back to Washington to be American Special Envoy to the Afghan Resistance with the personal rank of ambassador. During his three year Afghan Special Envoy appointment, he worked closely with numerous Afghan tribal leaders, commanders and religious ulema who are today directly involved in Afghanistan’s difficult transition towards stability and peace.  In late, 1992, the State Department named him Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. While Sino-American relations absorbed much of his time over the next three years, he also led the interagency diplomatic effort to re-establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam on terms requiring Vietnamese actions to cooperate in accounting for American servicemen from the Vietnam War era.

President Bill Clinton appointed Peter Tomsen ambassador to the Republic of Armenia on June 27, 1995. He served in that capacity for three years before retiring in November, 1998.

Among the awards Ambassador Tomsen has received are a Certificate of Appreciation for his Peace Corps service, signed by President Lyndon Johnson; three Presidential Meritorious Service Awards, one from President Ronald Reagan and two from President George H. W. Bush; two State Department Presidential awards from Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker; and a State Department Superior Honor Award.

Post Government
After retirement in 1998, Ambassador Tomsen taught advanced courses on American Foreign Policy and Eurasia at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He returned to the Washington area in 2002 to write a book, The Wars of Afghanistan.

Since September 11, he has been frequently called upon to speak before4 Senate and House Committees and in numerous TV, interviews to the national and international media. He has lectured at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, universities and other public fora around the United States and abroad. His articles have been published in Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The Los Angeles Times, and other newspapers and journals.

Peter Tomsen is married to Kim Nguyen Tomsen. They have two married daughters and five grandchildren.

Select Congressional testimony, articles and interviews:

“Beyond Marx and Mullahs," The Washington Times, May 23, 1999

“A Chance for Peace,” Foreign Affairs, January-February 2000.

“Peace is finally Within Reach,” The Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2000

“Geopolitics of an Afghan Settlement,” Perceptions: Journal of International Affairs, Vol 4, No. 4, December 2001-January 2001

“Don’t Let the Fanatics Make a Play for Power Again,” The Washington Post, November 16, 2001

“Doing it Right,” The Washington Times, November 24, 2001

“Untying the Afghan Knot,” Fletcher Forum, Vol 25, Winter 2001

“A Delicate Balance: Kabul and the Provinces,” The Los Angeles Times, February 24, 2002

“Post-Taliban Afghanistan and Regional Cooperation in Central Asia,” Perceptions: Journal of International Affairs, Vol VII, March-May 2002

“A Rebuilding Plan That Already Needs Repair,” The Washington Post, October 27, 2002

“Let Afghans Decide How to Rebuild,” The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2003

“The War Within,” The Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2003

Testimony to the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, One Hundred Seventh Congress, October 16, 2003

External Links

American Foreign Service Association Clinton Era Ambassador Appointments

PBS Frontline interview with Ambassador Tomsen, transcript of August 10, 2006

Press release announcing accordance of Ambassador rank on Peter Tomsen by President George H.W. Bush

Letter from Ambassador Tomsen to Armenian-Americans published in the Armenian General Benevolent Union News, July 1, 1996

“Stabilizing post-Taliban Afghanistan,” transcript from CNN chat room with Ambassador Tomsen on December 12, 2001

“Shaping the Future,” PBS News hour with Jim Lehrer interview, November 27, 2001. Transcript

Tomsen interview. “They Had a Plan,” by Michael Elliott, Time, August 4, 2002

“Critical Afghan Election,” transcript from a October 11, 2004 PBS News hour with Jim Lehrer interview with Margaret Warner
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