Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to be appointed as US special envoy to Kabul

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to be appointed as US special envoy to Kabul

*WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to tap Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born former US ambassador to Kabul and Iraq, as his special envoy on Afghanistan, two US officials said, the latest signal to the Taliban that the United States is serious about talks to end its longest war.*

The decision to tap Khalilzad, a Republican foreign policy veteran, comes as US military commanders acknowledge a stalemate in the fighting and follows a meeting last month between a US diplomat and Taliban officials to explore possible negotiations.

The administration has not officially confirmed those talks.

The two US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were unsure when the announcement would be made. The White House and the State Department declined to comment, and Khalilzad did not return messages left with his office.

The outgoing US commander of US and international troops insisted on Wednesday that despite a recent wave of violence, Trump’s strategy of an open-ended deployment of US military advisers, trainers and special operations forces and increased air support for Afghan forces is succeeding.

“I believe the strategy is working. … The reconciliation progress is significant and ultimately wars end with a political settlement,” said US Army General John Nicholson, commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

Trump, however, has expressed frustration at the lack of progress toward a US withdrawal after 17 years of conflict. In a policy shift during a June ceasefire, Washington said it would “support, facilitate and participate” in any Kabul government-led peace talks with the Taliban.

The surge in Taliban attacks, including an assault last week on the provincial capital of Ghazni that took US-backed Afghan forces four days to put down, has raised questions about their interest in negotiations.