The First Head Rolls After Afghanistan Withdrawal

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The State Department announced Monday the United States’ special representative for Afghanistan is stepping down, as a result of the country’s disorderly pullout. Now after three years’ service under both the Trump and Biden administrations, Zalmay Khalilzad will step down during the week.

He was already chastised for failing to push the Taliban strongly enough in peace negotiations that began while Trump was president; however, Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised his efforts.


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Blinken thanked Khalilzad, a previous US envoy of nations and Afghanistan, for his “years of service to the American public.”

After Biden announced the US pullout would be finished before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in September, Khalilzad intended to leave the role in May. He was requested to stay on, however, and he agreed.

After September 2018, Khalilzad worked as the special adviser for Afghan peace in both the Trump and Biden governments.

Khalilzad, an Afghan national, was unable to bring the two parties together to establish a power-sharing arrangement. However, he did broker a United States-Taliban accord in February 2020, which led to the conclusion of America’s lengthiest conflict.

The accord with the Taliban served as the model for the Biden government’s departure of all US soldiers from Afghanistan, which so many people say was hastened and poorly planned.

Scores of Afghan civilians who served for US forces in Afghanistan over the last two decades, as well as numerous American citizens and permanent residents, were abandoned in the hurry to leave.


Biden Doesn’t Have Much of a Leg to Stand On

Government skeptics acknowledged Biden neglected the “conditions-based” prerequisites for a full American withdrawal.

However, Biden and his advisers frequently claimed the accord brokered by Khalilzad bound their hands when it came to the complete withdrawal (and led to the Taliban’s rapid power grab of the nation).

Khalilzad stated publicly (and in his letter of resignation to the Associated Press) the deal he brokered made the eventual withdrawal of US troops contingent on the Taliban engaging in serious peace discussions with the Afghan government.

He also expressed disappointment that the talks and withdrawal had not gone as expected. Despite the complaints, Khalilzad has stayed on the job, notwithstanding missing the first elevated post-withdrawal U.S.-Taliban conference in Doha, Qatar, earlier in the month.

This led to rumors he was about to leave. Thomas West (who headed the US team to the last round of negotiations in Doha) will take over for Khalilzad.

The US, on the other hand, will not send representatives to a meeting on Afghanistan organized by Moscow this week, according to the Department of State. Department spokesperson Ned Price claimed “logistics” as the reason the US would not engage in the Moscow discussions.

In his letter of resignation, Khalilzad stated after quitting government employment, he will continue working on behalf of the Afghan people, offering his opinions and suggestions on what went so wrong in Afghanistan and how to move ahead.