WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, (AA): Zalmay Khalilzad, US President Joe Biden’s special envoy for Afghanistan, is stepping down from his post, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday.
The top US diplomat thanked Khalilzad for his efforts and extended his “gratitude for his decades of service to the American people.”
Thomas West, Khalilzad’s former deputy, will assume the role of Special Representative for Afghanistan, according to Blinken.
“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 U.S. Embassy Kabul presence in Doha on America’s interests in Afghanistan,” he said.
Khalilzad served as the top US envoy for Afghanistan under both the Trump and Biden administration and was the architect behind the bilateral deal that President Donald Trump struck with the Taliban in which Washington agreed to exit Afghanistan by May 1 in exchange for the Taliban’s vow not to attack US forces.
The agreement was widely criticized for ignoring the since deposed Afghan government, and Biden extended the withdrawal deadline through August.
Khalilzad’s decision to step down from office comes a month and a half after the US completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan amid the Taliban offensive that led to the government’s ouster. The hectic exit saw the US ferry over 120,000 people out of Afghanistan as the Taliban laid claim to the capital, Kabul