Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and to Iraq, former US Permanent Representative to the United Nations

September 7, 2016

At a time of great public debate in the United States about the presence and contributions of immigrants and refugees, the story of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is a remarkable one. Having arrived in the US as an exchange student, Khalilzad went on to play pivotal roles in the relationships between the US, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations—relationships which have become the most important drivers of American foreign policy and the global affairs of our time. 

During the discussion, Ambassador Khalilzad shared stories of his negotiations with tribal leaders in Afghanistan, Shia and Sunni opponents fighting for control of Iraq, and important partners in American diplomacy worldwide. He reflected on the chaotic early days of the ongoing effort to rebuild the Afghanistan government after the US military deposed the Taliban leadership and asserted its control, only weeks after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The US had become reluctant nation-builders, and the challenge would not be easy. Despite gaining recognition with nearly global consensus in the UN, the new Afghanistan government was facing decades of poverty, crumbling infrastructure, poor health outcomes, and lack of development and investment. As the work of rebuilding Afghanistan continues, Ambassador Khalilzad pointed to impressive progress in areas such as education and security which are encouraging the people of the nation to press forward.

Addressing questions from the audience, Ambassador Khalilzad discussed efforts to build inclusive processes for governance in countries that have long histories of division along sectarian, tribal, and political lines.