Washington, 19 October 2021 (dpa/MIA) – The United States’ special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, has stepped down from the role, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.
Khalilzad’s deputy Tom West will take over and lead diplomatic efforts, advise the leadership of the State Department’s South and Central Asian Affairs bureau, and coordinate closely with the US Embassy Kabul’s presence in Doha on America’s interests in Afghanistan, Blinken said in a statement.
“I thank Ambassador Khalilzad for his service and welcome Special Representative West to the role,” Blinken said.
The announcement comes less than two months after the chaotic withdrawal of US and other Western troops from Afghanistan after a nearly 20-year occupation.
Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Iraq and the United Nations, was appointed to the role in 2018 during the administration of Donald Trump.
His core mission as special representative for Afghan reconciliation was to end the war.
He was instrumental in renegotiating an agreement signed last February in Doha between the Trump administration and the Taliban which called for the full withdrawal of US troops as early as May 2021.
Experts say the deal paved the way for the Taliban’s return to power.
After US President Joe Biden announced the final withdrawal plans, the Taliban regained power in mid-August, some two weeks before the scheduled end of the US mission.
An attack at Kabul airport during the final days of the US evacuation mission killed 13 US soldiers and dozens of Afghans.
Biden’s government has faced massive criticism over the circumstances of the US withdrawal.