The top U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is stepping down from his post, less than two months after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Khalilzad’s departure in a statement Monday evening, saying the envoy would be replaced by his deputy, Thomas West.
“I extend my gratitude for his decades of service to the American people,” Blinken said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in the Treaty Room of the State Department, in Washington, Oct 18, 2021.
Khalilzad had been the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan for the past three years, serving under both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.
Before that, he had served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Iraq and Afghanistan under former President George W. Bush.
Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan, has faced criticism for his role leading negotiations with the Taliban and the Afghan government beginning in 2018.
Khalilzad failed to broker a power-sharing government between the two sides but did negotiate an agreement between the Taliban and the United States in February 2020, which led to the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
As U.S. forces withdrew from the country this year, Taliban forces rapidly took over cities across Afghanistan, leading to the fall of the U.S-backed government in Kabul in August.
The speed of the Taliban takeover contributed to a chaotic U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan in which hundreds of U.S. citizens and thousands of Afghans who helped the U.S. war effort scrambled to leave the country in the final days of the U.S. military operation.
In a letter to Blinken, Khalilzad acknowledged that he was not able to broker a power-sharing government between the Taliban and the U.S-backed government in Kabul.
“The political arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban did not go forward as envisaged,” he wrote