Former US special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, believes Washington was losing the war to the Taliban and chose negotiations as an alternative. He says the United States “did not succeed” in building a democratic Afghanistan after two decades of war in the country.
“I think with regard to terrorism, we largely have achieved that objective. On the issue of building a democratic Afghanistan – I think that – that did not succeed. The struggle goes on,” Khalilzad told CBS’ Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation”.
“The Talibs are a reality of Afghanistan. We did not defeat them. In fact, they were making progress on the battlefield even as we were negotiating with them. And the reason we negotiated with them was because militarily things were not going as well as we would have liked. We were losing ground each year,” the former US envoy to Afghanistan lamented.
Khalilzad explained that in order for the US to reverse the progress that the Taliban was making in Afghanistan, it was “going to require a lot more effort”.
Khalilzad’s remarks come less than a week since he resigned from his post as the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation. During his first television interview since his resignation, he noted he would have liked to have seen a negotiated settlement before the US withdrew from Afghanistan.
He explained the US had spoken with the Taliban and that they had a “set of agreements” with them, including some of which that have not been publicly disclosed.
Khalilzad explained that while Americans may not be pleased with how evacuation out of Afghanistan was handled, he believed they should at least be relieved that the Afghanistan war had ended.
“The burden has been reduced, that we achieved the goal of the devastating Al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” he added.
The Joe Biden administration was heavily criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for a messy and chaotic exit out of the country that culminated with a suicide bombing that killed 13 US service members. Biden noted he had no regrets on leaving the country and that no amount of time would have been enough to change what ultimately became the outcome.
The US continues to evacuate Americans and others from the country, though Khalilzad conceded he was unsure of how many Americans were still left in Afghanistan.
“I think it’s very likely that it’ll be in hundreds, but we don’t know. The truth of the matter is, we don’t know,” he confirmed.
He objected to the direction of the Biden administration’s current Afghanistan policy.
“One reason I left the government is that the debate wasn’t really as it should be based on realities and facts of what happened, what was going on and what our alternatives were,” Khalilzad said.
He added the United States did not put enough pressure on former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to share power with the Taliban.