Alternative History
Zalmay Khalilzad
Zalmay Khalilzad official portrait
United States Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan United States Senate Majority Leader
Assumed office
January 22, 2009
PresidentJohn McCain
Preceded byPosition created
26th United States Ambassador to the United Nations United States Senate Majority Leader
In office
April 17, 2007 – January 20, 2009
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byAlejandro Daniel Wolff
Succeeded byLindsey Graham
United States Ambassador to Iraq United States Senate Majority Leader
In office
June 21, 2005 – March 26, 2007
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byJohn Negroponte
Succeeded byRyan Crocker
United States Ambassador to Afghanistan United States Senate Majority Leader
In office
November 2003 – June 21, 2005
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byRobert Finn
Succeeded byRonald E. Neumann
Personal details
Born March March 22, 1951 (1951-03-22) (age 73)
Kingdom of Afghanistan Mazār-e Sharīf, Afghanistan
Nationality Afghan Afghan
American American
Political party Republican Party Republican
Spouse(s) Cheryl Benard
Children Alexander Benard
Maximilian Benard
Alma mater American University of Beirut
University of Chicago
Profession Diplomat and academic
Religion Islam

Zalmay Mamozy Khalilzad (Nastaliq: زلمی خلیلزاد - Zalmay Khalīlzād) (born March 22, 1951) is a top-raking Afghan American diplomat currently serving as the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan under the McCain administration. He has been involved with U.S. policy makers at the White House since the early 1980s, and was the highest-ranking Muslim American in the Administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

On January 22, 2009, Khalizad was appointed as a special adviser on Pakistan and Afghanistan, working under President of the United States John McCain and United States Secretary of State Joe Lieberman.

Early history and personal life[]

Zalmay Khalilzad was born on March 22, 1951 in the city of Mazār-e Sharīf in northern Afghanistan. Khalilzad's father, Khalilullah Khalilzad, was a government official under the monarchy of Mohammed Zahir Shah. He is an ethnic Pashtun, and his mother tongue is Persian (Dari). He also speaks English, Arabic and Pashto.

Khalilzad began his education at the public Ghazi Lycée school in Kabul. He first visited the United States as a Ceres, California high school exchange student with AFS Intercultural Programs. Later, he attained his bachelor's and master's degrees from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Khalilzad received his Ph.D at the University of Chicago, where he studied closely with strategic thinker Albert Wohlstetter, a prominent nuclear deterrence thinker and an opponent to the disarmament treaties, who provided Zalmay with contacts in the government and with RAND.

Khalilzad is married to Cheryl Benard. They have two children, Alexander and Maximilian.

Early career[]

From 1979 to 1989, Khalilzad worked as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. During that time he worked closely with Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Carter Administration's architect of the policy supporting the mujahideen resistance to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.

In 1984 Khalilzad accepted a one-year Council on Foreign Relations fellowship to join the State Department, where he worked for Paul Wolfowitz, then the Director of Policy Planning.

From 1985 to 1989, Khalilzad served in President Ronald Reagan's Administration as a senior State Department official advising on the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the Iran–Iraq War. During this time he was the State Department's Special Advisor on Afghanistan to Undersecretary of State Michael H. Armacost. In this role he developed and guided the international program to promote the merits of a Mujahideen-led Afghanistan to oust the Soviet occupation. From 1990-1992, Khalilzad served under President George H. W. Bush in the Defense Department as Deputy Undersecretary for Policy Planning.

Between 1993 and 2000, Khalilzad was the Director of the Strategy, Doctrine, and Force Structure at the RAND Corporation. During this time, he helped found RAND's Center for Middle Eastern Studies as well as "Strategic Appraisal," a periodic RAND publication. He also authored several influential monographs, including "The United States and a Rising China" and "From Containment to Global Leadership? America and the World After the Cold War." While at RAND, Khalilzad also had a brief stint consulting for Cambridge Energy Research Associates, which at the time was conducting a risk analysis for Unocal, now part of Chevron, for a proposed 1,400 km (890 mile), $2-billion, 622 m³/s (22,000 ft³/s) Trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline project which would have extended from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and further proceeding to Pakistan. He acted as a special liaison between UNOCAL and the Taliban regime. As one of the original members of Project for the New American Century, Khalilzad was a signatory of the letter to President Bill Clinton sent on January 26, 1998, which called for him to accept the aim of "removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power" using "a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts."

In 2001, President George W. Bush asked Khalilzad to head the Bush-Cheney transition team for the Department of Defense and Khalilzad briefly served as Counselor to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In May 2001, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice announced Khalilzad's appointment as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Southwest Asia, Near East, and North African Affairs at the National Security Council. In December 2002 the President appointed Khalilzad to the position of Ambassador at Large for Free Iraqis with the task of coordinating "preparations for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq."

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, President Bush came to rely on Khalilzad's Afghanistan expertise. Khalilzad was involved in the early stages of planning to overthrow the Taliban and on December 31, 2001 was selected as Bush's Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan. He served in that position until November 2003, when he was appointed to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.

United States Ambassador to Afghanistan[]

Khalilzad held the position of U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from November 2003 until June 2005. During this time, he oversaw the drafting of Afghanistan's constitution, was involved with the country's first elections, and helped to organize the first meeting of Afghanistan's parliament (the Loya Jirga). At the June, 2002, Loya Jirga to select the Head of State, Khalilzad personally strong-armed the former king of Afghanistan, 87-year old Mohammed Zaher Shah, to withdraw from consideration, even though a majority of Loya Jirga Delegates supported him, a move which angered Pashtuns who were concerned with the disproportionate power of the Northern Alliance in the Karzai government. He subsequently denied it, claiming that "It was just a rumor, don't believe in rumors." It was also well known that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was very reliant on Khalilzad's guidance, and some claimed that he did not make the smallest decision as President without first calling Khalilzad on his mobile phone, a rumour Khalilzad denied. During 2004 and 2005 he was also involved in helping with the establishment of the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), which is the first American-style higher learning educational institution in Afghanistan.

United States Ambassador to Iraq[]

Khalilzad began his job as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq on June 21, 2005. He was credited for helping negotiate compromises which allowed the ratification of Iraq's Constitution in October 2005, which allows for the partitioning of Iraq into different regions along ethnic lines. Khalilzad also worked to ensure that the December 2005 elections ran smoothly and played a substantial role in forming the current government. Khalilzad was one of the first high-level Administration officials to warn that sectarian violence was overtaking the insurgency as the number one threat to Iraq's stability. After the Al Askari shrine bombing, in February 2006, he warned that spreading sectarian violence might lead to civil war — and possibly even a broader conflict involving neighboring countries.

Khalilzad's term as Ambassador to Iraq ended on March 26, 2007. He was replaced by Ryan Crocker, a career diplomat who was serving as Ambassador to Pakistan previously.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations[]

On 12 February 2007, the White House submitted Khalilzad's nomination to the Senate to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. He was confirmed by the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate on March 29, 2007 by a unanimous voice vote. This marked a strong contrast to Khalilzad's predecessor, John R. Bolton, whose often controversial rhetoric caused him to fail to be confirmed by the United States Senate resulting in a recess appointment. Colleagues at the UN noted that Khalilzad has a different, more reconciling style than Bolton's.

In November 2007, Khalilzad charged that Iran is helping the insurgent groups in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also told the media, soon after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its report on Iran, that the Iranian government is clearly going ahead with its nuclear program. Khalilzad explained that the United States will try to pass another resolution in the U.N. Security Council under Chapter 7, to impose additional sanctions on Iran.

Khalilzad, along with most U.S. politicians, supported Kosovo's independence.

In August 2008, he urged the UN Security Council to "take urgent action" and "condemn Russia's military assault on the sovereign state of Georgia," in addition to stating that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had told Secretary of State Rice that Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili "must go."

United States Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan[]

On January 22, 2009, Khalizad was appointed as a special adviser on Pakistan and Afghanistan, working under President of the United States John McCain and United States Secretary of State Joe Lieberman.

In his position, Khalizad would coordinate across the entire government an effort to achieve United States’ strategic goals in the region, closely coordinated with the State Department, USAID, and the Defense Department under the coordination of the National Security Council.

Khalizad would work closely with President McCain, Secretary of State Lieberman, Secretary of Defense Gates and National Security Advisor Sam Nunn on overhauling the strategy in Afghanistan, also working closely with the Commander of CENTCOM, General Petraeus, CENTCOM, Admiral Mullen, head Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, General McKiernan (later replaced by General McChrystal).

He would also work closely with both Afghan and Pakistani officials, meeting regularily with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. He also assisted the Afghan government in preparations for the 2009 Afghan presidential election, where he met with Karzai as well as his rivals Abdullah Abdullah, Ramazan Bashardost and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

See also[]

Offices held[]

Diplomatic posts
Great Seal of the United States (obverse) Position created
United States Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Since January 22, 2009

Emblem of the United Nations Preceded by:
Alejandro Daniel Wolff
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
April 17, 2007 – January 20, 2009

Succeeded by:
Lindsey Graham

Great Seal of the United States (obverse) Preceded by:
John Negroponte
United States Ambassador to Iraq
June 21, 2005 – March 26, 2007

Succeeded by:
Ryan Crocker

Preceded by:
Robert Finn
United States Ambassador to Afghanistan
November 2003 – June 21, 2005

Succeeded by:
Ronald E. Neumann