In his first interview since stepping down from his post as U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad defended the withdrawal deal he had negotiated with the Taliban, but told CBS Face The Nation's Margaret Brennan he "objected to the direction of the Biden administration's current Afghanistan policy," writes CBS News.
"One reason I left the government is that the debate wasn't really as it should be based on realities and facts of what happened, what was going on and what our alternatives were," said Khalilzad to Brennan in the interview that appears to be airing over several days. The chief Taliban negotiator did not directly criticize President Biden, but he emphasized that the withdrawal agreement "was meant to be 'conditions-based' rather than driven by a calendar date," per CBS News. The Biden administration has argued its withdrawal plans were bound by an agreement negotiated under former President Donald Trump in February of 2020.
"I was asked by the former president to negotiate our withdrawal from Afghanistan and get commitments from the Taliban (on) the terrorism front," Khalilzad explained, as reason for his resignation. "That has been achieved."
"I'm not saying it was an orderly withdrawal," Khalilzad acknowledged. "This was an ugly and final phase. No doubt about it could have been a lot worse." And in the case of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Kabul as the Taliban took over, the diplomat conceded "we could have pressed President Ghani harder."
Khalilzad also assured the public that "a set of agreements," some of them unreleased, had been made with the Taliban regarding how they will handle terrorism. "We hold them accountable to those agreements," he said.
"The American people should be pleased," Khalilzad argued. "Not with the way the final phase happened — we all are unhappy with that — but that the Afghan war is over for the United States."