Thursday, December 2

The architect of America’s controversial farewell to Afghanistan resigns


In February of last year, with Zalmay Khalilzad as master of ceremonies, Washington and the Talibn signed an agreement that set a date for the withdrawal of US troops.

The US Special Representative for Afganist
The US special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.AP
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He held one of the most critical positions in American foreign policy. He was one of the few members of the Trump administration to survive the change of government. But, now that the dust that raised the chaotic withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, the special representative of USA for that country, what forged in 2020 the agreement that allowed the withdrawal, has left through the back door.

That it was not a friendly farewell is clear from the words that, according to the digital PoliticianKhalilzad wrote in his resignation letter: “The political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban did not go ahead as planned. The reasons for this are too complex and I will share my ideas in the coming days and weeks.” What I will say is likely to be the subject of another controversy surrounding the face that has illustrated the political and military debacle of the United States this year.

The American diplomat, born in Afghanistan 70 years ago, I have been working behind the scenes since 2018 to get Donald Trump fulfill the electoral promise to end Afghanistan’s ‘eternal war’. He contacted the Taliban, managed to get the leader Abdul Ghani Baradar out of a Pakistani prison, facilitated the establishment of a political office in Doha and enabled him as an interlocutor. All this while, on Afghan soil, the fundamentalists did not stop in their attacks.

In February of last year, Washington and the Taliban, with Khalilzad as master of ceremonies, signed an agreement that set a date for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. In return, the Islamists must ensure that they sever their ties with Al Qaeda, ensure that neither the latter nor the Islamic State attack the West in the future, and vaguely commit to negotiating a political settlement with the Afghan government that leads at the end of the war and the stabilization of the country.

An organizational disaster unfit for a power

It mattered little to Khalilzad, or the administration he represented, that the Talibn did not recognize the Afghan national executive. Nor that, one after another, the UN reports alerted that the Talibn and Al Qaeda were still synonymous. Or that the attacks against civilians persist. Or that it was impossible to channel minimally functional peace talks, in large part, too, because of Kabul’s lack of interest in negotiating and risking losing the privileges of its dependence on the United States.

Joe Biden it willingly inherited that agreement and barely changed the date of the farewell, which inevitably arrived at the end of last August, with the Talib culminating weeks of territorial advances in the face of a weak Afghan army and an Afghan president on the run. The result was an organizational disaster unfit for a first power, embodied in the deadly chaos around Kabul International Airport during evacuations.

This scenario led many to point to Zalmay Khalilzad, who opted for a thunderous silence. Also surprising was his absence earlier this month in Qatar, where a US delegation met the Talib for the first time since the establishment of its Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan. Time will allow for explanations beyond the “gratitude for his decades of service to the American people” that his boss at the State Department, Antony Blink, Has published.

More direct has been a US government official who, on condition of anonymity, criticized Khalilzad’s negotiating style, claiming that he had given “influence” to the Taliban, “continually undermined the Afghan government and had little interest in hearing different points of view within the Government of the United States. “A position that, however, contrasts with a Joe Biden who has defended withdrawal, with harsh criticism of the Afghan Government.

Zalmay Khalilzad began working as the US Ambassador to Afghanistan in 2004, appointed by George W. Bush. Only a year later he was assigned to Iraq, another of the key countries in the region for the United States. In 2007 he moved his position to the United Nations, where he acted as permanent ambassador of his country. A role he briefly held under the Obama Administration. His successor in the post of special representative for Afghanistan will be his hitherto right-hand man, Thomas West.

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