Zalmay Khalilzad

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Zalmay Khalilzad
Zalmay Khalilzad in October 2011-cropped.jpg
26th United States Ambassador to the United Nations
In office
April 30, 2007 – January 22, 2009
President George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Preceded by Alejandro Wolff (Acting)
Succeeded by Susan Rice
United States Ambassador to Iraq
In office
June 21, 2005 – March 26, 2007
President George W. Bush
Preceded by John Negroponte
Succeeded by Ryan Crocker
United States Ambassador to Afghanistan
In office
November 28, 2003 – June 20, 2005
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Robert Finn
Succeeded by Ronald E. Neumann
Personal details
Born Zalmay Mamozy Khalilzad
(1951-03-22) March 22, 1951 (age 66)
Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Cheryl Benard
Children 2 (including Alexander)
Education American University of Beirut (BA, MA)
University of Chicago (PhD)

Zalmay Mamozy Khalilzad (Pashto: زلمی خلیلزاد Zalmay Khalīlzād; born March 22, 1951) is a former American diplomat and a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and president of Gryphon Partners and Khalilzad Associates, an international business consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. He was the United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush. He has been involved with U.S. policy makers at the White House, State Department and Pentagon since the mid-1980s, and was the highest-ranking Muslim American in the Administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.[1] Khalilzad's previous assignments in the Administration include U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

Early life and education[edit]

Khalilzad was born in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, and grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan.[2] His parents originated from Laghman Province, and the family moved to Mazar-i-Sharif when his father was a government official under the Musahiban monarchy of Mohammed Zahir Shah.

Khalilzad began his education at the public Ghazi Lycée school in Kabul. He first spent time in 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 PhD at the University of Chicago in the United States, where he studied closely with strategic thinker Albert Wohlstetter, a prominent nuclear deterrence thinker and strategist, who provided Khalilzad with contacts in the government and with RAND.[1]

Career history[edit]

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.[1] (See also: Operation Cyclone.)

In 1984, Khalilzad accepted a one-year Council on Foreign Relations fellowship to join the State Department, where he was an advisor to the Near East and South Asia Bureau headed by Richard W. Murphy. 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 a member of the Policy Planning Staff and 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. Khalilzad was a signatory of the letter from members of the Project for the New American Century 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."[3]

United States Ambassador to Afghanistan[edit]

Khalilzad presenting President George W. Bush a ballot from the first democratic election in Afghanistan on October 18, 2004.

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."[4]

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.

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, representatives of the US convinced the former king of Afghanistan, 87-year-old Zahir 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.[5] During Khalilzad's tenure as ambassador, Afghan President Hamid Karzai consulted closely with him on a regular basis about political decisions and the two dined together regularly.[6][7] 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.[8]

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq[edit]

Khalilzad with Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in April 2006.

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. Khalilzad also worked to ensure that the December 2005 elections ran smoothly and played a substantial role in forming the first post-Saddam government. Khalilzad also helped establish the American University of Iraq in Sulaimaniya and sits on its board of regents.[9]

In comparison to his predecessors Paul Bremer and John Negroponte in Baghdad, Khalilzad was considered a success as US Ambassador and credited with bringing a cultural sophistication and human touch to the job that helped connect with Iraqis.[10] 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 sought political solutions to the problem of sectarianism, in particular working to integrate the balance of power between Iraq's three main ethnic groups in order to head off growing Sunni violence.[10]

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.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations[edit]

Khalilzad at the 2008 World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

On February 12, 2007, the White House submitted Khalilzad's nomination to the Senate to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.[11] He was confirmed by the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate on March 29, 2007 by a unanimous vote.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14]

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,"[15] in addition to stating that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had told Secretary of State Rice that Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili "must go."[16]

Post-Bush administration[edit]

Presently,[when?] Khalilzad serves as the President of Khalilzad Associates, LLC an "international advisory firm that serves clients at the nexus of commerce and public policies, helping global businesses navigate the most promising and challenging international markets."[17] Khalilzad Associates and its parent company Gryphon Capital Partners counts among its clients international and US companies, which are primarily interested in doing business in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Khalilzad, these include companies in the sectors of energy, construction, education, and infrastructure.[18]

On September 9, 2014 news items appeared in the Austrian media stating that Khalilzad was being investigated by Austrian authorities for suspected money laundering and that his wife’s accounts had been frozen.[19] On September 10, the Austrian court made known that the case had been dismissed and the accounts ordered unfrozen already a week earlier, on September 3. The leak was the result of court documents having been disposed of unshredded in the general trash, and found by scavenging bloggers.[20]

Khalilzad also currently serves as a Counselor at the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) and sits on the Boards of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), America Abroad Media (AAM), the RAND Corporation's Middle East Studies Center, the American University of Iraq in Suleymania (AUIS), and the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).[21] In 2015, he donated over $100,000 to the Atlantic Council, an American think tank.[22]

Khalilzad's political autobiography The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House, My Journey Through a Turbulent World was published by St. Martin's Press in 2016.

Personal life[edit]

Khalilzad is a Sunni Muslim and belongs to the Pashtun ethnic group.[23][24] He is fluent in English, Pashto, Dari and Arabic.[25]

Khalilzad is married to author and political analyst Cheryl Benard, whom he met in 1972 when they were both students at the American University of Beirut. They have two children, Alexander and Maximilian.

Writing on U.S. leadership[edit]

Khalilzad wrote several articles on the subject of U.S. global leadership's value in the mid-1990s. The specific scenarios for conflict he envisioned in the case of a decline in American power have made his writings extremely popular in the world of competitive high school and college policy debate, particularly his writing linking the loss of United States hegemony to global instability.[26]


  1. ^ a b c International House at the University of Chicago – Alumni In The News, Ambassador Zalmay M. Khalilzad, PhD '79
  2. ^ "George W. Bush’s top envoy on how close the US came to success in Afghanistan". New York Post. March 20, 2016. Retrieved April 3, 2016. 
  3. ^ Abrams, Elliott; Armitage, Richard L.; Bennett, William J.; Bergner, Jeffrey; Bolton, John; Dobriansky, Paula; Fukuyama, Francis; Kagan, Robert; Khalilzad, Zalmay; Kristol, William; Perle, Richard; Rodman, Peter W.; Rumsfeld, Donald; Schneider, William, Jr.; Weber, Vin; Wolfowitz, Paul; Woolsey, R. James; Zoellick, Robert B. (26 January 1998). "PNAC letters sent to President Bill Clinton". Information Clearing House. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  4. ^ The White HouseStatement by the Press Secretary (December 2, 2002)
  5. ^ New York TimesAfghan Democracy and Its First Missteps By S. Frederick Starr and Marin J. Strmecki, Friday, June 14, 2002
  6. ^ Parker, Kathleen (April 11, 2010). "The U.S. can't ignore Karzai's tantrum". The Washington Post. 
  7. ^ TIMEInside Karzai's Campaign (October 4, 2004)
  8. ^ Azizi Hotak General Trading Group
  9. ^ Dagher, Sam (July 14, 2010). "Prospects Abound Among the Kurds". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ a b Steele, Jonathan (April 23, 2006). "The viceroy of Baghdad". The Guardian. London. 
  11. ^ The White House – Nominations and Withdrawal Sent to the Senate (February 12, 2007)
  12. ^ Washington Post 4/23/2007
  13. ^ "A matter of honour". The Economist. July 26, 2007. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  14. ^ Pajhwok Afghan News, Iran supports insurgent groups in Afghanistan: Khalilzad (Nov. 16, 2007)
  15. ^ "UN Must Demand Russian Withdrawal From Georgia, U.S. Envoy Says". Bloomberg. August 10, 2008. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Iraq Dinar
  19. ^
  20. ^ Austrian court lifts bank account freeze for ex-US diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad
  21. ^
  22. ^ Atlantic Council. "Honor Roll of Contributors" for fiscal year 2015. Atlantic Council website
  23. ^ "Bush names special envoy to Afghanistan". USA Today. December 31, 2001. 
  24. ^ Andrew Chang, ed. (September 30, 2004). "Who Is Zalmay Khalilzad?". ABC News. 
  25. ^ "US refuses to discuss Iran's nuclear plans in face-to-face talks on Iraq". The Guardian. April 18, 2006. 
  26. ^ Khalilzad, Zalmay (1995). "Losing the moment? The United States and the world after the Cold War". The Washington Quarterly. 18:2: 03012. doi:10.1080/01636609509550148. 

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert Finn
United States Ambassador to Afghanistan
Succeeded by
Ronald E. Neumann
Preceded by
John Negroponte
United States Ambassador to Iraq
Succeeded by
Ryan Crocker
Preceded by
Alejandro Wolff
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
Succeeded by
Susan Rice