NYT: Khalilzad in Hot Water

The New York Times receives a leaked email from State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher to US-UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in which Boucher excoriates Khalilzad for meeting with Pakistani Political leader Asif Ali Zardiri.

Mr. Khalilzad had spoken by telephone with Mr. Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, several times a week for the past month until he was confronted about the unauthorized contacts, a senior United States official said. Other officials said Mr. Khalilzad had planned to meet with Mr. Zardari privately next Tuesday while on vacation in Dubai, in a session that was canceled only after Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, learned from Mr. Zardari himself that the ambassador was providing “advice and help.”

“Can I ask what sort of ‘advice and help’ you are providing?” Mr. Boucher wrote in an angry e-mail message to Mr. Khalilzad. “What sort of channel is this? Governmental, private, personnel?” Copies of the message were sent to others at the highest levels of the State Department; the message was provided to The New York Times by an administration official who had received a copy.

Officially, the United States has remained neutral in the contest to succeed Mr. Musharraf, and there is concern within the State Department that the discussions between Mr. Khalilzad and Mr. Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister, could leave the impression that the United States is taking sides in Pakistan’s already chaotic internal politics.

Around the UN there have been persistent stories about Khalilzad’s alleged foreign policy “freelancing” and his supposed ambition (as noted in the Times article) to replace Hamid Kharzai as president of Afghanistan.

In an old UN Plaza Clip from February, Matthew Lee and I discuss some of these stories surrounding Khalilzad. As I say below, I really don’t like to get into rumor mongering about Khalilzad’s ambitions to be a foreign head of state.