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Kerry to visit family of diplomat killed in Afghanistan

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday he would be making a stop on the way home from a 10-day overseas tour to visit the family of a young diplomat killed in Afghanistan.

"The reason that I'm stopping in Chicago is to visit the parents of Anne Smedinghoff," Kerry told embassy staff just before leaving Tokyo, referring to a 25-year-old American who died in a bomb attack earlier this month.

Smedinghoff was one of five Americans who died in separate attacks on April 6 in Afghanistan, one of the deadliest days of the year so far for foreigners in the war-torn country.

Her death shook the US, with relatives and colleagues paying tribute to a smart, young woman at the beginning of a promising career.

"Everybody understands and feels that kind of a loss. A 25-year-old young woman full of ideals, full of hopes, taking books to children in a school so they can learn... wiped out by terrorists," said Kerry, who met the diplomat when he went to Afghanistan last month.

"We are not going to be deterred. We are going to be inspired. And we'll use Anne's idealism as another motivation to the idealism that brings all of you to this effort in the first place," he told embassy staffers.

"We can make this world better," Kerry said. "We can strengthen other countries. We've seen it happen.

"As long as I am secretary of state I promise you I will do everything in my power to cover your back, you cover mine. We'll be a good team and together we'll get the job done."

Smedinghoff's parents said in a statement their daughter had "enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan people".

She "was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war," they added.

The last American diplomat killed on the job was US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.

At least three US soldiers and another civilian were killed in the attack that saw a suicide car bomber strike a NATO convoy in the southern province of Zabul.

Speaking to staff and families at the US Consulate General in Istanbul the following day, Kerry acknowledged that such attacks pose a "huge challenge" as US troops and their NATO allies prepare for a withdrawal at the end of next year.

"It's a grim reminder to all of us, though we didn't need any reminders, of how important and also how risky carrying the future is... and just trying to provide opportunity to those young boys and girls and men and women in Afghanistan."

Flags and white ribbons lined the street of Smedinghoff's family home in River Forest, a suburb of Chicago, local media reported at the time.

Smedinghoff's first assignment as a diplomat was in Caracas before she volunteered to work in Afghanistan starting in July as a public diplomacy officer.

Her parents said she had joined the US Foreign Service right after graduating from college in 2009 and loved her work, despite the risk.

"We always knew in the back of our minds that this was a possibility. She went everywhere. She usually told us about it afterward, but she never expressed any fear at all," her father told CBS News.

In their statement, Smedinghoff's parents said they were "consoled knowing that she was doing what she loved, and that she was serving her country by helping to make a positive difference in the world."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130415/kerry-visit-family-diplomat-killed-afghanistan-1