I remember the first time an Afghan told me that the United States and the Taliban were working together. It was February 2010, and I was in Zormat, an old trading town in the lap of snow-covered mountains, between Kabul and the Pakistani border.
The president beamed, the guests applauded. As Hamid Karzai was sworn in for his second term in office amid a throng of 800 international and domestic dignitaries on November 18, one could almost forget that his presidency is under a cloud, his international support hanging by a thread, and his domestic standing lower than ever. It was a stark difference from his first inauguration, in December 2004. Then, the U.S.
When Zalmay Khalilzad was U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 2002 war, it was a given that President Hamid Karzai would never make a decision without first consulting him. And Khalilzad also ruled over the American agencies in the country, including the military. More than ambassador, Afghan-born Khalilzad was America’s pro-consul in Kabul. U.S. Army Lieutenant General Karl W.Eikenberry, the ambassador nominated by Barack Obama earlier this year, enjoys no such pre-eminence.
The New York Times reports today that former United Nations ambassador and American ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is considering taking a "key role" in the Afghan government: The position would allow Mr. Khalilzad to serve as “a prime minister, except not prime minister because he wouldn’t be responsible to a parliamentary system,” a senior Obama administration official said. Taking the unelected position would also allow Mr. Khalilzad to keep his American citizenship. Early last year, I reported that Khalilzad was considering an actual run for the presidency of Afghanistan.
In April 2005, when President Bush decided to transfer Zalmay Khalilzad from Afghanistan to Iraq, Afghan President Hamid Karzai complained. The Afghan-born Khalilzad had been serving as U.S. ambassador to his native country, and his relationship with Karzai--which dated back to the late 1990s, when both men advised the U.S. oil company Unocal on the construction of a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline--was strong.
In early 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney spoke to President George W. Bush from the heart. The war in Afghanistan had been an astonishing display of U.S. strength. Instead of the bloody quagmire many predicted, CIA paramilitary agents, Special Forces, and U.S. air power had teamed with Northern Alliance guerrillas to run the Taliban and Al Qaeda out of their strongholds.
Last week, an Iraqi exile named Mohammed Mohsen Zubaidi strode into Baghdad and declared himself mayor, meeting with local sheiks and promising them potable drinking water and electricity. “With your help, we can manage our country by ourselves,” The Washington Post quoted him as saying. Barbara Bodine, the former U.S.
In the first weekend of the war, a little-noticed statement from the State Department promised that the United States still took "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iran very seriously." The Middle East hands at Foggy Bottom crafted the phrase after the Iranians accused the United States of firing missiles into Iran's Abadan oil refinery. It turned out the missiles were Iraqi, but State still used the occasion to send Tehran a message: You're not next. The public statement echoed private communications that had been taking place in recent months in Geneva between the U.S.