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Controversial US envoy for Afghanistan Khalilzad stepping down

Khalilzad failed to predict such a quick collapse and was blindsided by former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to flee the war-torn country.

Published: Updated:

The top US diplomat to Afghanistan said Monday that he was stepping down from his role.

Zalmay Khalilzad made his announcement to Al Jazeera TV hours after reports emerged that he would make the move.

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Khalilzad worked as a US envoy under multiple presidents but was primarily seen as the main figure in the disastrous policy during the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

He has been noticeably absent from the public sphere since the Taliban swept through Afghanistan and overthrew the government during the abrupt US withdrawal.

He was also behind the peace talk efforts between Washington and the Taliban.

Khalilzad failed to predict such a colossal mistake and was blindsided by former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to flee the war-torn country.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked Khalilzad for his work and “decades of service to the American people.”

Thomas West, previously the Deputy Special Representative, will replace Khalilzad.

“Special Representative West, who served on then-Vice President Biden’s national security team and on the National Security Council staff, will lead diplomatic efforts, advise the Secretary and Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and coordinate closely with the US Embassy Kabul presence in Doha on America's interests in Afghanistan,” Blinken said.

Last week, the State Department appointed veteran diplomat Elizabeth Jones as the new coordinator for efforts to relocate Afghans who have fled or want to flee their country. She took over for John Bass, the former ambassador to Afghanistan.

Bass was dispatched to Kabul to oversee evacuations during the chaotic US withdrawal, and Khalilzad was nowhere to be seen.

Khalilzad’s work has been limited to routine tweets on the situation in Afghanistan.

Read more: US envoy says Ghani exit scuttled Afghan power-sharing