Do not blame Afghanistan for blowing whistle on Zalmay Khalilzad
Hamdullah Mohib, nationwide safety adviser to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, broke diplomatic china on Thursday when he advised a Washington viewers:
“Understanding Ambassador Khalilzad’s personal historical past, private historical past, he has ambitions in Afghanistan. He has needed to run for president twice, in 2009 and 2014… The notion in Afghanistan [was that] maybe all of this discuss is to create a caretaker authorities, of which he’ll then grow to be the viceroy. We’re solely saying this as a result of that is the notion.”
For his feedback, Mohib was summoned to the State Division to be chewed out by David Hale, the beneath secretary of State for coverage. He could not be capable to get a US visa, regardless of having an American spouse. American diplomats defended the State Division motion saying that Mohib’s “advert hominem” assault had no place in diplomacy.
Maybe Mohib’s language was not saccharine sufficient for diplomatic snowflakes, however he was proper.
Zalmay Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan, has an extended and sometimes regrettable historical past in Afghanistan affairs. Previous to the Sept. 11 terror assaults, for instance, Khalilzad labored as a marketing consultant for a gaggle in Boston which was in turned employed by UNOCAL which on the time was making an attempt to construct a pipeline throughout Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. On the time, Khalilzad labored to normalize US relations with the Taliban and organized for a senior Taliban official to return to america to fulfill with Clinton administration officers and enterprise leaders.
Khalilzad joined the Bush administration as a senior Nationwide Safety Council official. After Sept. 11, the White Home sought out his experience. Not solely did Khalilzad have intimate data of Afghanistan, however the Bush White Home additionally discovered it helpful to level to Khalilzad, a senior Muslim American, as proof towards adversaries’ propaganda that Bush was neither waging “a conflict on Islam” nor was he “Islamophobic.”
The issue was that Khalilzad can also have had a private agenda.
As Afghans started discussing their future authorities, most assumed that Zahir Shah, the Afghan king ousted in a 1973 coup d’etat, would play a task: He was an elder statesman, represented Afghanistan’s golden age, and was a unifying determine.
The BBC reported:
‘Sure, we’ll welcome him,’ stated one man, ‘when he was our ruler, our king, we had starvation, however we had peace.’ … ‘All of the ethnic teams in Afghanistan help Zahir Shah – Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras,’ stated one other man. ‘All the opposite leaders and the armed factions couldn’t carry peace and stability, however he’ll.’ It’s truly fairly troublesome to seek out an Afghan who doesn’t need the previous king again. Most individuals right here nonetheless name him the king or his majesty and even amongst among the Pashtuns, Baba – grandfather.’
That isn’t to say that Afghans universally envisaged a return to monarchy (although many did), however most assumed that the king may preside over a reconciliation council or constitutional conference. Khalilzad shortly intervened to privilege Karzai, over whom Khalilzad thought he had leverage, over Zahir Shah, whom he noticed as a competitor. Ultimately, Karzai uncovered himself as a venal conspiracy theorist. Karzai’s brother, whom the president protected, allegedly grew to become considered one of Afghanistan’s biggest drug kingpins. Zahir Shah, however, died as a extensively revered, seasoned statesman. Many Afghans nonetheless ask what may need been, and blame Khalilzad for ceasing any chance to reply that query.
The cynicism with which Afghans view Khalilzad has deep roots. In Washington, reminiscence is 4 years lengthy, however in Kabul it runs far deeper. Was Mohib exaggerating when he advised that Khalilzad needed to run for Afghanistan’s presidency after former President Barack Obama’s election ended Khalilzad’s profession as UN ambassador? Contemplate this New York Instances articlefrom the time:
“Zalmay Khalilzad, who was President George W. Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan, may assume a robust, unelected place contained in the Afghan authorities beneath a plan he’s discussing with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, in response to senior American and Afghan officers. Mr. Khalilzad, an American citizen who was born in Afghanistan, had thought of difficult Mr. Karzai for the presidency in elections scheduled for this summer season. However Mr. Khalilzad missed the Could eight submitting deadline, and the American and Afghan officers say that he has been speaking with Mr. Karzai for a number of weeks about taking over a job that the 2 have described because the chief govt officer of Afghanistan. Such an alliance would profit Mr. Karzai by co-opting a possible rival. For its half, the White Home has made no secret of its rising disenchantment with Mr. Karzai, and a few Afghanistan consultants stated that enlisting Mr. Khalilzad would have the advantage of bringing a powerful, competent chief into an more and more dysfunctional Afghan authorities. The place would enable Mr. Khalilzad to function ‘a major minister, besides not prime minister as a result of he wouldn’t be accountable to a parliamentary system,’ a senior Obama administration official stated. Taking the unelected place would additionally enable Mr. Khalilzad to maintain his American citizenship.”
Khalilzad’s habits in Iraq has additionally heightened cynicism not solely in Iraq but additionally in Afghanistan. Put apart Khalilzad’s tendency to place himself front-and-center in entrance of the cameras when his directions have been to maintain the concentrate on Iraqis, a delicate level given the US need for its intervention in Iraq to be seen as liberation fairly than occupation. That Iraqis have lengthy seen Khalilzad extra as a businessman than a diplomat is a significant motive why Afghans query whether or not enterprise ambition greater than Afghan safety motivates Khalilzad’s actions now.
In Iraq, he left his put up as ambassador solely to spend money on Kurdish oil (on the expense of Iraqi cohesion). As well as, he arrange a consulting agency that doesn’t seem to have produced many, if any, consultancy studies. Reasonably, when enterprise would stall in Iraqi Kurdistan, businessmen would pay Khalilzad’s consultancy which might then make cellphone calls to shake paperwork free with main political leaders. The set-up could have been authorized however most Iraqis perceived it as corrupt. Inside Washington, many assumed Khalilzad was utilizing contacts gathered all through his political profession to money out as his diplomatic profession had doubtless ended.
President Trump’s election modified that. Khalilzad’s appointment by Trump to steer the Afghanistan negotiations handed with little remark each due to press focus elsewhere given the controversies surrounding Trump and in addition, frankly, as a result of few in Washington cared deeply about Afghanistan after practically 17 years of conflict. Khalilzad could have had directions, however the Trump administration’s hands-off method allowed Khalilzad to monopolize course of and decision-making in methods few different envoys may think about.
Khalilzad used that place to most impact. He not solely promoted a framework settlement empowering the Taliban that was virtually precisely the identical that the Clinton administration accepted previous to Sept. 11, however he sought to marginalize, if not cut-out totally, Afghanistan’s elected authorities. As Khalilzad purported to barter Afghanistan’s future, he minimize out the Mohib and Afghanistan’s safety equipment totally: no seat on the desk, no back-briefings, no function in talks.
In the meantime, Afghan forces continued to struggle for his or her freedom as Taliban assaults accelerated. Khalilzad’s need to manage the narrative and to defend himself from any criticism has grown so nice that he (or the US Embassy in Kabul which coordinates its actions with the envoy) refused a visa to Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s former intelligence chief and inside minister who has lengthy labored in shut coordination with the CIA and Washington, and has put his life on the road repeatedly in protection of US forces. Certainly, whilst Hale chastised Mohib, it seems that probably the most senior ranges of the State Division had no concept of Khalilzad’s actions, and the animosity they have been engendering amongst American allies inside Afghanistan, together with with President Ashraf Ghani.
There are different parallels to Mohib’s whistleblowing about Khalilzad’s actions and the Trump administration’s anger.
In 1994, because the Clinton administration pursued an Agreed Framework with North Korea, the White Home ignored South Korean President Kim Younger-sam. The South Korean president granted an interview with the New York Instances by which he criticized the deal and its many loopholes. President Invoice Clinton and the State Division blew a gasket. They stated Kim was ungrateful and unhelpful to diplomacy. After all, Kim was proper. Extra just lately, the anger which Hale expressed towards Mohib parallels that of Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly raised issues over the knowledge of and loopholes inside the Iranian nuclear deal.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ought to need greater than to duplicate the worst of Clinton and Obama.
US nationwide safety and Afghanistan’s freedom ought to each be value greater than Khalilzad’s ego. The easy reality is that Mohib spoke bluntly for a motive. The trail Khalilzad is taking Afghanistan down, whether or not with instruction or with out, will result in catastrophe. On the identical time, Khalilzad’s decades-long historical past of conflating private political ambition, enterprise pursuits, and diplomacy offers Afghans profound unease. The State Division could say Mohib’s feedback are unfair, however it is usually doubtless that if Khalilzad have been envoy to Madagascar, he would doubtless by some means grow to be concerned within the espresso and vanilla commerce.
Deep down, virtually everybody who has labored in Afghanistan or Iraq can attest that there’s a motive why perceptions of impropriety encompass Khalilzad in distinction to many different envoys and diplomats earlier than him.