Khalilzad May Join Afghan Government

According to senior American and Afghan officials, Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan, may soon take a high level position in the Afghan government.  The position does not yet have a title, but it has been vaguely described as “prime mininster, but not prime minister because he wouldn’t be responsible to a parliamentary system,” and as “chief executive officer.”  It is also unclear exactly what his responsibilities would be.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai may be attempting to co-opt Khalilzad, who earlier had expressed an interest in running for the presidency in upcoming elections, and eliminate him as a political rival.  However, the filing deadline for election candidates has already passed, so there now appears to be less incentive for Karzai to bring Khalilzad into the government.  Karzai has a history of bringing rivals into his administration, including warlords with poor human rights records.  Government posts can be lucrative in Afghanistan, where corruption is high, which gives political players a financial incentive to take cabinet positions–this is not meant to suggest that Khalilzad has base motives for wanting to become an Afghan official.

Khalilzad is an American citizen who was born in Afghanistan, and is considered by Western officials to be an expert when it comes to public affairs in his native land.  Because the position would be an appointed one and not an elected one, Khalilzad would be allowed to keep his US citizenship even while serving in a foreign government.  Such a situation would obviously create a conflict of interests, and it is uncertain where Khalilzad’s loyalties lie. 

One wonders if there is any historical precedent for an American citizen serving in the administration of a foreign country.

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