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Zalmay Khalilzad Will Try to Pave Way for Taliban Talks with Afghanistan

September 28, 2018 in Economics

By Sahar Khan

Sahar Khan

On September 5, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed that Zalmay Khalilzad will join the
State Department as President Trump’s special adviser on
Afghanistan. His main mission will be to facilitate talks
between the Afghan government and Taliban.

There’s no way to know
whether Khalizad will be successful, but it’s safe to say that the
Afghan peace process just got trickier.

The big picture: Appointing Khalilzad as a
special advisor indicates that the Trump administration is serious
about
an Afghan-led peace process, and about maintaining its hardline approach toward
Pakistan. But what remains unclear is how the Pakistani government,
now led by first-time prime minister Imran Khan, will work with
Khalilzad.

Khalilzad is a known neoconservative figure in the U.S. war in
Afghanistan, which has entered its eighteenth year. He previously
served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq and later as
the UN ambassador during the George W. Bush administration. As an
Afghan-American, Khalilzad has a unique understanding of
Afghanistan that President Bush tried to capitalize on when Hamid Karzai was
sworn in as Afghanistan’s president in 2004.

Yes, but: His strong connection with Karzai and
the visibility of his extended family’s involvement in the Afghan government, which
included seeking contracts, raised some concerns within American
diplomatic circles about his conflicting interests. In 2008, there
was a rumor that Khalilzad might even run as a presidential candidate in
Afghanistan’s elections.

The central question is, what happens if Khalilzad is unable to
deliver? He has often advocated for creating avenues of mutual understanding between the Afghan
government and the Taliban. But he has also been very critical of
Pakistan’s sponsorship of the group, even as the Trump
administration has asked Pakistan to facilitate talks between the Afghan government and the
Taliban.

The bottom line: There’s no way to know whether
Khalizad will be successful, but it’s safe to say that the Afghan
peace process just got trickier.

Sahar Khan is a
visiting research fellow in the Cato Institute’s Defense and
Foreign Policy Department. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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