Envoy for Afghanistan Steps Down after US Withdrawal
By Staff, Agencies
The US special envoy for Afghanistan is stepping down following the chaotic American withdrawal from the country, the State Department announced Monday.
Zalmay Khalilzad will leave the post this week after more than three years on the job under both the Trump and Biden administrations. He had been criticized for not pressing the Taliban hard enough in ‘peace’ talks begun while Trump was president but Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked him for his work.
Khalilzad had initially planned to leave the job in May after Biden's announcement that the US withdrawal would be completed before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in September. However, he was asked to stay on and did so.
He had served as the special envoy for Afghan reconciliation since September 2018, when then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought him on board to lead negotiations with the Taliban and the Afghan government.
An Afghan native, Khalilzad was unsuccessful in getting the two sides together to forge a power-sharing deal but he did negotiate a US agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 that ultimately led to the end of America's longest-running war.
The agreement with the Taliban served as the template for the Biden administration's withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan, which many believe was conducted too hastily and without enough planning. Thousands of Afghan citizens who worked for US forces there over the past two decades were left behind in the rush to leave as were hundreds of American citizens and legal residents.
In interviews and in his resignation letter described to The AP, Khalilzad noted that the agreement he negotiated had conditioned the final withdrawal of US forces to the Taliban entering serious ‘peace’ talks with the Afghan government. He also lamented that those negotiations and consequently the withdrawal had not gone as planned.