Zalmay Khalilzad, US special envoy, resigns as America enters new phase in Afghanistan

Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the 2020 Doha Deal with the Taliban, resigned on Tuesday--almost two months after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan--as the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, the US State Department confirmed

Oct 19, 2021
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Zalmay Khalilzad, US special envoy

Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the 2020 Doha Deal with the Taliban, resigned on Tuesday--almost two months after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan--as the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, the US State Department confirmed. Tom West, Khalilzad’s deputy, will the role of the special envoy, marking a new phase in the US' Afghan policy. 

In his resignation letter sent to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, he said it was "the right time" to leave, "at a juncture when we are entering a new phase in our Afghanistan policy." Credit with brokering the 2020 Doha deal between the US and the Taliban - which has been widely panned - Khalilzad said the deal “did not go forward as envisaged.”  

In his resignation letter, Khalilzad said the erstwhile Afghan government bore some responsibility for the failure to reach an accord and "they failed to make use of this opportunity to end their 40-year conflict in a constructive spirit and fair compromise."

Appointed in the post in 2018 by former President Donald Trump, Khalilzad departs almost three years later from the role without achieving most of the initially envisioned objectives-- barring that the US is out of Afghanistan. 

Khalilzad said that he was "saddened" for the Afghan people, given the current outcome, and that that he departs the role at a time of change in Afghanistan. He notably said that "[e]ven the Taliban describe themselves as an interim government."

For millions of Afghans, who flourished in the last two decades, the Doha deal signed by Khalilzad in 2020 was a historic blow to the gains of the last 20 years. Over 100,000 Afghans left the country following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

Bilal Sarwary, a senior Afghan journalist who escaped Afghanistan under the new Taliban rule, wrote in a Tweet, “History will record your ( Khalilzad’s) achievement, and the Saigon type misery you inflicted on Americans and undoing the gains of the 20 years. Unforgivable.”

There is little doubt that the Doha deal was inherently flawed, and gave the Taliban a huge advantage. However, some people take a more sympathetic view: His hands were tied and he was just acting on the instructions from his former boss, former president Trump.   

In a brief statement, Blinken on Tuesday thanked Khalilzad and expressed "gratitude for his decades of service to the American people." In the same statement, the secretary announced that the deputy special representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West, will now fill Khalilzad's role.

(SAM)