Tuesday 24 Nov 2020 | 02:34 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 24 Nov 2020 | 02:34 | SYDNEY

Khalilzad for president (of Afghanistan)


Sam Roggeveen


31 January 2008 10:42

FT foreign affairs columnist Gideon Rachman blogs about a rumour that has been going around for a few weeks now: Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq and currently US ambassador to the UN, is thinking about running for president of Afghanistan when Hamid Karzai's term expires next year. Khalilzad was born in Afghanistan and could presumably reclaim Afghan citizenship, so the idea is not as mad as it sounds.

Still, Rachman is against the idea because he thinks it would look like American imperialism, though presumably if Afghans feel this way, they could just not vote for him. And maybe there is merit in reviving the internationalist political professional. In pre-Napoleonic Europe, it was common for European diplomats to change sides. The practice didn't really survive the growth of nationalism in the nineteenth century, but even when Bismarck, early in his career, was offered a commission with the Russian foreign service, he politely refused but did not consider the idea scandalous or offensive to his sense of patriotism. These are very modern hang-ups that maybe we need to get over — an experienced political operator who knows Washington and has dealt with NATO as well as countless international bureaucrats and NGOs may be just what Afghanistan needs.