Zalmay Khalilzad had been under pressure since the fall of the Afghan government and the takeover by the Taliban.
Senior US envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad steps down, State Department said, less than two months after chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Taliban takeover .
Khalilzad will be replaced by his deputy, Tom West, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Monday, noting that West will work closely with the US Embassy, which is now based in Doha, on US interests in Afghanistan. .
“As Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad steps down, I express my gratitude for his decades of service to the American people,” the Blinken statement said.
“I thank Ambassador Khalilzad for his service and welcome Special Representative West to this role.”
A person familiar with the matter told Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity that Khalilzad tendered his resignation on Friday.
His departure follows his exclusion from the Biden administration’s first formal talks with the Taliban after the US withdrawal, which took place in Doha earlier in October.
In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Khalilzad defended his record but admitted he had fallen short and said he wanted to give way to the “new phase of our Afghan policy” .
“The political arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban did not go as planned,” he said, quoted by the AFP news agency.
“The reasons are too complex and I will share my thoughts in the days and weeks to come. “
“Face of diplomatic failure”
Born in Afghanistan, Khalilzad had held the post since 2018 and led negotiations with the Taliban that culminated in the February 2020 agreement for the withdrawal of US forces this year.
Despite his Republican affiliation, Khalilzad was held in place when Biden defeated Donald Trump and decided to proceed with the withdrawal.
He then urged the extremist armed group and the West-backed government of former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to negotiate a political settlement after decades of conflict.
In mid-August, the government collapsed when the Taliban swept across the country and marched unopposed in the capital, Kabul.
The same Khalilzad who gave so many concessions to the Taliban in advance, agreed to the release of 5,000 TB prisoners in the absence of the former Afghan government. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Was just a slogan. https://t.co/i4hjJHOsZm
– BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) October 18, 2021
Khalilzad was left to seek help from the armed group in the US evacuation of US citizens and at-risk Afghans who worked for the US government.
Current and former US officials told Reuters earlier that in Khalilzad’s three years in the post, he became the face of one of the most significant US diplomatic failures in recent memory.
U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the veteran U.S. diplomat had renounced the armed group’s influence, continuously undermined the Afghan government and had little interest in hearing different views within the US government.
Speaking to Foreign Policy magazine recently, Khalilzad defended his record, saying the Taliban had fulfilled key elements of the February 2020 deal, including not attacking outgoing US troops.
“I respect those who say we should not have negotiated with the Talibs without the presence of the government. But we don’t know how much fighting would have been necessary for the Taliban to accept this, ”he said.
But with no appetite in the United States for another troop increase in its longest war, “every year we were losing ground to the talibés,” he said.
“The weather was not on our side.