US Secretary of State Colin Powell's successful prostate cancer operation may have dispelled fears over the state of his health.
But the 66-year-old war hero turned statesman could find it harder to quell the continuing speculation over his political future.
Colin Powell has been an internationalist as Secretary of State
As next year's US presidential election nears, it is uncertain whether Mr Powell wants to remain in charge of the country's foreign policy if George W Bush wins a second term.
The retired four-star army general has been the subject of several media reports saying that he wants to step down.
But whatever happens next, Mr Powell has won international respect for the way he has handled the huge and unexpected challenges of the past three years.
Since he became the first African-American Secretary of State, the "war on terror" has come to dominate American foreign policy in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.
As "senior statesman", he has been at the centre of efforts to win and maintain a historic international consensus on how to tackle terrorism.
However, it has never been clear that he has the full backing of a divided administration.
Under the Bush presidency, the US has alienated many around the world with its unilateral rejection of initiatives such as the Kyoto climate change agreement and the International Criminal Court.
US foreign policy has often seemed to be the product of a struggle between the hawkish, conservative Pentagon and the more moderate, Powell-led State Department.
But when the administration has sought to reach out to other nations, Mr Powell has been at the forefront of those efforts.
Colin Powell is recovering from surgery at an army medical centre
In the run-up to the US-led war against Iraq, he successfully argued in favour of involving the United Nations and giving Iraq "one last chance" to disarm.
However, he ultimately failed to win UN backing for the war, despite a presentation to the Security Council in which he asserted that Saddam Hussein had amassed secret weapons of mass destruction.
No evidence for the existence of those weapons has yet been found, but Mr Powell has denied that the White House exaggerated intelligence reports in order to justify war.
Mr Powell was born to Jamaican parents in New York in 1937 and raised in the South Bronx.
He retired from the army in 1993 after 35 years in the military, including four years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Bush senior and Clinton administrations.
A decorated Vietnam veteran, he is best known for his role as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War, the highest military position in the Department of Defense.
It is believed that he thought about running for President in 1995 and both parties courted his support. Politically, he is a moderate Republican.
His vast military experience helped shaped what has become known as the Powell Doctrine - the policy of exercising caution when sending US troops to fight abroad.
The doctrine says troops should be sent in overwhelming numbers or not at all, and only when success is assured.
Such action would only be taken where there is a clear national interest and an exit strategy.
Mr Powell's military experience is augmented by strong negotiating skills, honed as deputy national security adviser and then as national security adviser in the Reagan administration.
He was a key player at the summit meetings that brought the US and the former Soviet Union closer together - and a supporter of the "Star Wars" missile defence programme.
If Mr Powell does withdraw from the political fray, it will be at least in part because of the concerns of his wife Alma.
It was apparently Alma who persuaded him not to run for the presidency in the 1996 election, and he reportedly promised her he would serve as Secretary of State for only one term.