Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad will be replaced by his deputy, Tom West, who led Afghan policy for the Biden presidential transition team and has been working closely with Khalilzad for months.
“As Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad steps down from his role, I extend my gratitude for his decades of service to the American people,” Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in a statement. “Thomas West, who previously served as the Deputy Special Representative, will be the Special Representative for Afghanistan.”
CNN reported earlier Monday that the Biden administration was expected to announce Khalilzad’s departure. CNN has reached out to Khalilzad for comment.
“He is ostracizing and alienating a very trusted ally and partner,” Mohib said of Khalilzad at the time.
During those talks, Khalilizad’s counterpart was Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was recently named Afghanistan’s acting deputy prime minister. At times, Khalilizad had a contentious relationship with Afghan government officials who viewed him as favoring the Taliban. Khalilizad’s own deeply personal ties to Afghanistan, where he was born, and his free-wheeling approach to the negotiations have also been viewed as controversial by some and effective by others.
But Khalilzad was asked by the Biden administration to stay on after Biden won the election even though, traditionally, an incoming administration replaces politically appointed officials with their own team, particularly on foreign policy matters with such significance.
With the May deadline looming, Biden announced all troops would be out by the 20th anniversary of September 11th.
Khalilzad was expected to leave in May, the source who was briefed said, but then agreed to stay longer than originally planned.
West accompanied the CIA’s deputy director, David Cohen, on that trip and had also been on a previous trip in late August to Kabul with CIA Director Bill Burns to meet the top Taliban leader in Kabul, according to one of the sources.
The US State Department called the latest talks with representatives of the Taliban “candid and professional” while emphasizing that the Taliban “will be judged on its actions, not only its words.”
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid had told reporters, “We had a detailed discussion with the American delegation in Doha.”
Since the Taliban have taken control of Afghanistan, the State Department has declined to detail what the plans are for Khalilzad. Last month, spokesman Ned Price acknowledged Khalilzad had returned to the US from Doha and noted that there was now a US diplomatic mission for Afghanistan in Qatar led by another senior diplomat.
This story and headline have been updated with additional information Monday.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.
Source : CNN