Name? Zalmay Khalilzad
Westphalian identity? United States of America (born Afghan)
Why is he in the news? He was the top US diplomat responsible for brokering the deal with the Taliban that allows the United States to leave the country without it seeming to be a complete defeat for Washington.
Why do we care? He has made a fortune from going into the private IR consultancy business after cynically using public service to build up networks and credibility. We should all learn from him. He is goals.
Why should you care? People make the world go round and there is no denying the impact Khalilzad’s presence has had on the ability for the US to (hopefully) start winding down operations in Afghanistan after 18 years of utter failure. Plus, his profile is fascinating: He was an advisor to the Reagan Administration in the 80s when they decided to abandon their allies in Afghanistan. He is associated with powerful think tanks. He is very hawkish on US foreign policy. In other words, he’s the type of person you want to understand if you study international relations.
Who else cares? US media are hailing Khalilzad, who was born in Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan, as the person who won the necessary trust from the Taliban. On the other hand, the government in Kabul is less impressed, and very nervous about his pro-American (i.e. withdrawal) approach, leaving them vulnerable to a hostile Taliban takeover.
Any further comments? We are torn about Donald Trump’s and Zalmay Khalilzad’s approach. On the one hand, it is essential that the United States withdraws its troops from an unwinnable and deeply destructive war. On the other, they are repeating the same mistakes as Reagan did: Afghanistan is not likely to become a stable, thriving society as a result of the current agreement. It is unlikely to end well, either for Afghans as well as global interests.