US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has officially announced the appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation.
Pompeo said in a memo to staff on Friday that Khalilzad will lead US efforts to support, facilitate, and participate in a peace process between government and the Taliban.
“There is no one better suited for this duty than an expert diplomat like ambassador Khalilzad, who was born and raised in Afghanistan, and has previously served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations,” Pompeo said in a memo.
In the memo Pompeo said he was confident in Khalilzad’s ability to execute the mission.
“I am confident in Ambassador Khalilzad’s ability to execute this mission, and we are grateful for his willingness to step back into public service. As we welcome him back to the Department, let us rededicate ourselves to achieving a durable peace in Afghanistan that will ensure security for the American people. This goal is realistic. We have a team in place to accomplish it. Let’s get the job done,” said Pompeo in the memo.
Although the US State Department had a special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the position was done away with last year. Duties now fall under United States Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells.
Now that Washington has started talks with the Taliban, it appears that it wants to strengthen its efforts in this regard by appointing Khalilzad as Washington’s special envoy for Afghanistan, a source said recently.
Khalilzad was born in Mazar-e-Sharif and was the United States ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush and has been involved with U.S policy makers at the White House, State Department and Pentagon since the mid-1980s. He has also served as U.S ambassador to Afghanistan and U.S ambassador to Iraq.
Reuters reported recently that the diplomat is well suited to the difficult task of persuading the insurgents to talk, according to a former senior U.S. official, who asked not to be further identified.
In addition to his experience advising or working for four U.S. administrations and his knowledge of Afghanistan’s main languages, culture and politics, he is close to President Ashraf Ghani, the former official said.