The Independent today adds fuel to persistent rumors that US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad has his eyes on the Afghan Presidency.
Mr Khalilzad played a major role in Mr Karzai becoming President after the fall of the Taliban. But the Afghan ruler’s popularity has slipped and he has been increasingly at odds with his Western backers, criticising British policy in Helmand and blocking the appointment of Lord [Paddy] Ashdown…as the UN envoy to Kabul. But Mr Khalilzad has himself been accused of undermining Lord Ashdown by failing to support him adequately at the UN for the Afghan job.
These rumors have been floating around the UN for a long while, and Ambassador Khalilzad certainly did not do much to tamper down speculation by announcing his impending retirement on Afghan television station this week. Still, I think we have to take him at his word when he says he does not seek office in Afghanistan. Khalilzad, after all, is a cabinet level American official. It would seem wrong to question his allegiance.