Zalmay Khalilzad

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Zalmay Khalilzad has served as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations, with the title U.S. Ambassador, since April 23, 2007.[1] Prior, Khalilzad served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq 2005-2007.[2] He is married to Cheryl Benard.

The change came as "part of a broad revamping of the military team that [was to] carry out the administration's new Iraq strategy."[3]

"In a major reshuffle of the US foreign policy and national security teams," Ryan Crocker, then U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, replaced Khalilzad[4] as the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.[5]

From 2003 to 2005, Khalilzad served as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and also as Special Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan. "Before becoming Ambassador to Afghanistan, he served at the National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Islamic Outreach and Southwest Asia Initiatives, and prior to that as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Southwest Asia, Near East, and North African Affairs."[1]


"Dr. Khalilzad headed the Bush-Cheney transition team for the Department of Defense and has been a Counselor to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.

"Between 1993 and 1999, Dr. Khalilzad was Director of the Strategy, Doctrine and Force Structure program for RAND's Project Air Force. While with RAND, he founded the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Between 1991 and 1992, Dr. Khalilzad served as Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning. Then-Secretary of Defense Cheney awarded Dr. Khalilzad the Department of Defense medal for outstanding public service. Dr. Khalilzad also served as a senior political scientist at RAND and an associate professor at the University of California at San Diego in 1989 and 1991. From 1985 to 1989 at the Department of State, Dr. Khalilzad served as Special Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs working policy issues, advising on the Iran-Iraq war and the Soviet war in Afghanistan. From 1979 to 1986, Dr. Khalilzad was an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University.

"Dr. Khalilzad received his bachelor's and master's degree from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. He went on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Dr. Khalilzad is the author of more than 200 books, articles, studies, and reports. His work has been translated in many languages including Arabic, Chinese, German, Japanese, and Turkish."[1]


Khalilzad is a member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and was one of the signers of the January 26, 1998, PNAC Letter sent to President William Jefferson Clinton.

In September 2004, Khalilzad was charged with trying to influence the October 9 Afghan presidential elections. "Several [Afghan presidential] candidates ... maintain that the U.S. ambassador and his aides are pushing behind the scenes to ensure a convincing victory by the pro-American incumbent, President Hamid Karzai," reported the Los Angeles Times. One candidate, Mohammed Mohaqiq, said Khalilzad had asked him and others to withdraw from the race: "They have been doing the same thing with all candidates. That is why all people think that not only Khalilzad is like this, but the whole U.S. government is the same. They all want Karzai -- and this election is just a show."[6]

Khalilzad denied the charges, but the Los Angeles Timesstory noted:[6] "Khalilzad has been nicknamed 'the Viceroy' because the influence he wields over the Afghan government reminds some Afghans of the excesses of British colonialism. ... Delegates to gatherings that named Karzai interim president in 2002 and ratified Afghanistan's new Constitution last December also accused the ambassador of interfering, even of paying delegates for their support."

Joel Brinkley summarized Khalilzad's network in the Bush administration as follows:[7]

"Mr. Khalilzad, a protégé of Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz since long before Mr. Bush took office, served as a senior director on the president's national security council staff during the early years of Mr. Bush's first term."


Khalilzad first visited the United States as a high school exchange student, through an American Field Service program. He lived for a year with a family, and attended Ceres High School, near Modesto, Calif.[8]

He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, and his doctorate degree from the University of Chicago, where he studied closely with strategic thinker Albert Wohlstetter - a mathematician and mentor to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.[9][10]

Political Career

On March 10, 2005, Khalilzad was named the new US ambassador to Iraq, replacing John Negroponte.[11]U.S. Department of State, Zalmay Khalilzad, governmental website, accessed February 5, 2021.</ref>

Other diplomatic posts held by Khalilzad (since his becoming an American citizen in 1984) include:[1]

  • US Ambassador to Afghanistan (2003-2005)
  • US Special Presidential Envoy and Ambassador at Large for the Free Iraqis 2002.
  • US special envoy to Afghanistan 2001
  • Senior Director for Islamic Outreach and Southwest Asia Initiatives at the National Security Council
  • Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Southwest Asia, Near East, and North African Affairs at the National Security Council under former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush
  • Special Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs working policy issues, advising on the Iran-Iraq war and the Soviet War in Afghanistan, 1985-99
  • Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning, 1991-92
  • Fellow of Policy Planning at the State Department, under Paul Wolfowitz, 1984-85

Khalilzad was one of the original members of the Project for the New American Century (the only Muslim and non-native born American original member), and signed the January 26, 1998 letter to President Clinton, calling for a "comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam [Hussein] and his regime" in Iraq.[12][10]

An anonymous former associate described Khalilzad as someone who "tends to look at military solutions as the first, not the last policy option."[10]

In defending the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Zhalilzad said in a February 2002 PBS interview:[13]

We have to think about where Afghanistan has been and where it might have been. Compared to the many years of war involving the Taliban and the Northern Alliance and some and prior to that the civil war among various factions that fought against the Soviet Union and the war against the Soviet Union, which lasted some ten years, this is -- what they have now is a much better situation. The civil war has ended, Afghanistan has been liberated. There are challenges, clearly, there are security challenges, there are political challenges, there are economic challenges, but these problems that they face now are much smaller, better problems, if you like, to have compared to the problems they had just a few years ago.

Private Career

Zalmay Khalilzad served as an advisor to the giant oil company Unocal during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. While working for the Cambridge Energy Research Associates in the mid 1990s, Khalilzad conducted risk analyses for Unocal for a proposed 890-mile, $2-billion, 1.9-billion-cubic-feet-per-day natural gas pipeline project which would have extended from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. In 1997, Khalilzad "joined Unocal officials at a reception for an invited Taliban delegation to Texas."[9]

"Just as oil industry conflicts of interest have not been a concern for the Bush administration in its appointments, Khalilzad's historic support for the Taliban seems not to be either," wrote the environmental, anti-mining group Project Underground of Khalilzad's ambassadorship. "Even as the Clinton administration was beginning to recognize the repressive nature of the Taliban regime and its links to [Osama] bin Laden, Khalilzad called for U.S. engagement with the Taliban. 'The Taliban do not practice the anti-US style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran,' wrote Khalilzad. 'We should ... be willing to offer recognition and humanitarian assistance and to promote international economic reconstruction. It is time for the United States to re-engage.'"[14]

Other positions Zhalilzad has held in the private sector include:[1]

  • Director of the Strategy, Doctrine and Force Structure program for the U.S. Department of Defense think tank the RAND Corporation's Project Air Force, 1993-99
  • RAND senior political scientist
  • Founder, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
  • Associate Professor at the University of California at San Diego, 1989 and 1991
  • Executive Director, Friends of Afghanistan, "a support group for the mujaheddins fighting the Soviets." [2] The group was part of a $500,000 U.S. Information Agency "public relations campaign intended to bring [the Afghan] struggle against Soviet troops to the world's attention." [3]
  • Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University (where he worked with Zbigniew Brzezinski), 1979-86

Resources and articles

RelatedSourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Biography: Zalmay Khalilzad, Permanent Representative to the UN, U.S. Department of State.
  2. "Zalmay Khalilzad, Ambassador, Iraq, Term of Appointment: 06/22/2005 to present, U.S. Department of State.
  3. Michael R. Gordon and Thom Shanker, "Bush to name new general to oversee Iraq," New York Times (Financial Times), January 4, 2007.
  4. About Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Embassy of the United States, Baghdad, March 29, 2007.
  5. Mark Tran, "Bush poised to name new Iraq commander," Guardian Unlimited (UK), January 5, 2007.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Paul Watson, "U.S. Hand Seen in Afghan Election," Los Angeles Times (, September 23, 2004.
  7. Joel Brinkley, "Bush Names Envoy in Kabul to Be Ambassador to Iraq," New York Times, March 11, 2005.
  8. "Ceres Couple Attend Ceremony for Student Turned Ambassador," Modesto Bee, December 21, 2003.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Jennifer Van Bergen, "Zalmay Khalilzad and the Bush Agenda," truthout, January 13, 2001.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Issam M Nashashibi, Zalmay "Khalilzad: The Neocon's Bagman to Baghdad," CounterPunch, April 17, 2003.
  11. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Amb Iraq
  12. This link is no longer active.
  13. Newsmaker: Zalmay Khalilzad, PBS Online NewsHour, February 15, 2002.
  14. Quoted information taken from more than one source. See Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, "Afghan Roots Keep Adviser Firmly in the Inner Circle. Consultant's Policy Influence Goes Back to the Reagan Era," Washington Post, November 23, 2001.

External articles

Articles by Zalmay Khalilzad

Articles about Zalmay Khalilzad







External resources



  • Paul Sperry, "Crude Politics : How Bush's Oil Cronies Hijacked the War on Terrorism," Thomas Nelson, September 4, 2003, ISBN-10: 0785262717 / ISBN-13: 978-0785262718.