Top US envoy to Afghanistan to step down, following Taliban takeover, chaotic military withdrawal

Zalmay Khalilzad alerted Secretary of State Antony Blinken of his intent to resign his position

Updated: October 19, 2021 - 8:06am

The top U.S. delegate to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will leave his post following the breakdown of the U.S. diplomatic situation in Afghanistan over the summer. The State Department confirmed Khalilzad's departure on Monday.

Khalilzad's former deputy, Thomas West, will take over the role, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

Blinken received Khalilzad's resignation in a letter that read, "Tomorrow, I step down from my position as the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. I decided that now is the right time to do so, at a juncture when we are entering a new phase in our Afghanistan policy."

The letter continues, "the political arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban did not go forward as envisaged. The reasons for this are too complex and I will share my thoughts in the coming day and weeks."

Khalilzad formerly led talks under former President Trump's administration that resulted in an agreement that would have seen the U.S. exit the country by May 2021. 

The State Department and Pentagon inspectors general, in addition to several congressional committees, have launched probes into the withdrawal of U.S. forces and operations in Afghanistan, which were characterized by scenes of chaos and death, as well as a U.S. drone strike that mistakenly killed 10 civilians.