Khalilzad’s “Exit Interview”


Just returning from and event at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC in which Steve Clemons played host/inquisitor/moderator to a discussion with outgoing United States ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad.

Khalilzad reflected that the United Nations was a “net positive” for the United States. He said he came into the job believing that “the United States needs the United Nations and the United Nations needs the United States” and left feeling the exact same way. When asked about his personal diplomatic style he responded that treating colleagues like equals — even those from small nations — can go a long way toward earning the United States the kind of trust and support that is required to effectively advance American interests at the United Nations.

Perhaps the newsiest bit came when Khalilzad addressed the controversy surrounding the United States abstention from the Gaza ceasefire resolution. He said that Rice spent an “unprecedented” three days working on the resolution, and that the United States drafted a big portion of the resolution, which he described as “very reasonable.” He then made two somewhat contradictory points. 1) That there was an imperative to pass a resolution before Friday evening prayers in the Arab world because the United States feared that not doing so could result in violence directed at its embassies in the Middle East. 2) That the ultimate decision to abstain from the resolution was done to give ongoing Franco-Egyptian diplomatic efforts more time.

What’s curious to me, at least, is why the United States would not vote in favor of a resolution that its ambassador considered “very reasonable” and its Secretary of State worked so hard on drafting?

Still, it is hard not to like and respect Ambassador Khalilzad, who brought a level of competency and passion to three critical posts in US government- ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations. He is unsure what his future holds, though he did rule out running for president of his native Afghanistan. He does, however, want to be an advocate for the people of Afghanistan and help that country in anyway he can. He suggested that he may work on projects related to education in Afghanistan. All the power to him.