Blinken said in a brief statement that the deputy US envoy to Afghanistan, Thomas West, who was a White House adviser when President Joe Biden was Vice President Barack Obama, will succeed Zalmay Khalilzad in his position..
Zalmay Khalilzad is a veteran diplomat born 70 years ago in Afghanistan and held high positions during the era of former President George W. Bush, as he was appointed US ambassador to Kabul, then to Baghdad, and then to the United Nations.
Khalilzad hails from Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and is fluent in Pashto and Dari, the two main languages of his home country..
Khalilzad took over the file of the relationship between the United States and Afghanistan in 2018, after the administration of former US President Donald Trump appointed him as a special envoy to oversee negotiations with the Taliban, negotiations that did not involve the US-backed government in Kabul..
But peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government made little progress, and when the time for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approached, the government forces that the United States had built over 20 years collapsed within days..
It seemed that the agreement that Khalilzad outlined was nothing more than a series of American concessions, as it stipulated that the United States would leave Afghanistan without a ceasefire and without even setting a framework for any future peace process that would end the war..
Instead of extracting guarantees from the Taliban in the months following the agreement, Khalilzad intensified pressure on the Afghan government, forcing the presidency to release thousands of Taliban prisoners who immediately bolstered the movement’s armed ranks..
The agreement increased pressure on the Kabul government, as it launched a countdown due to the United States’ pledge to withdraw all of its soldiers from Afghanistan by May 2021, in a deadline that was later extended to September.
This did not leave the Afghan government much time and room to maneuver.
US President Joe Biden’s decision in April to press ahead with the withdrawal ignited the last fuse, unleashing an all-out Taliban offensive that toppled the Afghan government by force on August 15.