The Afghanistan Debacle and “The Great Reset”. The Strategic Role of Zalmay Khalilzad

By F. William Engdahl

Global Research, August 20, 2021

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Much of the world is shocked by the apparent incompetence of the Biden Administration in the human and geopolitical catastrophe that is unfolding in Afghanistan. While Biden speaks out of both sides of his pre-scripted mouth, stating that everyone else is to blame than his decisions, then stating “the buck stops here,” only adds to the impression that the once sole-superpower is in terminal collapse. Could it be that this is all part of a long-term strategy to end the nation state in preparation for the global totalitarian model sometimes called the Great Reset by the Davos cabal? The 40 year history of the Afghan US war and the Afghani Pashtun who shaped the policy until today is revealing.

The airwaves of mainstream media across the globe are filled with questions of military incompetence or intelligence failure or both. It is worthwhile to examine the role of the Biden Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at the State Department, Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad. For the one figure who has shaped strategic US foreign policy since 1984 in the Administration of Bush Sr., and has been US Ambassador to both Afghanistan and to Iraq at key times during the US wars there, as well as the key figure in the present debacle, astonishingly little media attention has been given the 70-year old Afghan-born operative.

Zalmay Khalilzad

Khalilzad, an ethnic Pashtun born and raised in Afghanistan until High School, is arguably the key actor in the unfolding Afghan drama, beginning with the time he was the architect of the radical transformation under Bush Jr of US strategic doctrine to “preventive wars.” He was involved in every step of the US policy in Afghanistan from CIA training Taliban Mujihideen Islamists (organization banned in Russia) in the 1980’s to the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to the Doha deal with the Taliban and the current disastrous collapse.

The May 8 1992 New York Times reported on a leaked Pentagon draft, later called the Wolfowitz Doctrine after the Pentagon official under then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Paul Wolfowitz had been charged by Cheney with drafting a new US global military posture following the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to the Times leak, the document argued that, “the US must become the world’s single superpower and must take aggressive action to prevent competing nations—even allies such as Germany and Japan—from challenging US economic and military supremacy.” It further stated, “We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” It was de facto a declaration of unilateral imperialism.

At the time Zalmay Khalilzad worked under Wolfowitz as Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning, where he was tasked with drafting the new doctrine, working with Wolfowitz and outside consultants, including Khalilzad’s doctorate professor at the University of Chicago, RAND neo-conservative “godfather”, Alfred Wohlstetter. Wolfowitz had also studied at Chicago under Wohlstetter. This group became the core of the so-called neo-conservative warhawks. Khalilzad once said Cheney personally credited the young Afghani for the strategy document, allegedly telling Khalilzad, “You’ve discovered a new rationale for our role in the world.” That “discovery” was to transform America’s role in the world in a disastrous way.

Khalilzad’s highly controversial policy proposal, while it was later deleted from the published document by the Bush White House, reappeared a decade later as the Bush Doctrine under Bush Jr., also known as “preventive wars” and was used to justify the US invasions of Afghanistan and later Iraq.

Bush jr., whose Vice President was Dick Cheney, initiated the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, urged on by his Afghan adviser, Zalmay Khalilzad, using the excuse that Osama bin Laden, the alleged architect of the 911 attacks, was hiding under protection of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, so the Taliban must be punished. In May, 2001, some four months before 911, Bush National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice had named Khalilzad as “Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Gulf, Southwest Asia and Other Regional Issues.” The “other regional issues” was to become huge.

Khalilzad had headed the Bush-Cheney Transition team for the Department of Defense. His influence twenty years ago was enormous and largely hidden from public view. Former Khalilzad boss Wolfowitz was Number Two at the Bush Jr. Pentagon and former Khalilzad consulting client, Don Rumsfeld was Defense Secretary.

Bush declared war against the Taliban regime for refusing to extradite the Saudi Jihadist Bin Laden. There was no UN role, no debate in Congress. It was the new US doctrine from Khalilzad and Wolfowitz and their neo-con cabal, that might makes right. Here began the 20-year US debacle in Afghanistan that never should have begun in any sane world of rule by law.

Taliban Origins

The origins of the Taliban come out of the CIA project, initiated by Carter Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1979, of recruiting and arming radical Islamists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and even Saudi Arabia, to wage irregular warfare against the Soviet Red Army then in Afghanistan. The CIA code-named it Operation Cyclone and it lasted ten years until the Red Army withdrew in 1989. A Saudi-CIA asset, Osama bin Laden, had been brought into Pakistan to work with the Pakistani ISI intelligence to draw money and Jihadists from the Arab states into the war. A significant number of radicalized Afghan Pashtun students called Taliban or “seekers” were recruited from radical madrasses, some in Pakistan where the ISI protected them. That CIA war became the longest and most costly CIA operation in its history. By 1984 Khalilzad was in the middle of it all, as US State Department Afghan specialist.

During the latter part of the 1980’s CIA war in Afghanistan, working with radical Islamist Mujahideen and Taliban mercenaries, Khalilzad emerged as the most influential US policy figure on Afghanistan. By 1988 Khalilzad had become the State Department’s “special advisor” on Afghanistan under former CIA head, George Bush Sr. In that post he was the one who dealt directly with the Mujahideen, including the Taliban.

By then he had become close to Jimmy Carter’s Afghan war strategist, Zbigniew Brzezinski. Joining the US State Department in 1984 after teaching at Brzezinski’s Columbia University, Khalilzad became Executive Director of the influential Friends of Afghanistan lobby where Brzezinski and Kissinger associate, Lawrence Eagleburger were members. The Friends of Afghanistan, with USAID money, lobbied Congress for major US support to the Mujahideen. Khalilzad also successfully lobbied to give advanced US Stinger missiles to the Mujahideen. During this period Khalilzad had dealings with the Mujahideen, Taliban, Osama bin Laden and what came to become Al Qaeda (a terrorist organization banned in Russia).

In the George W. Bush Administration, Khalilzad was named Special Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan in early 2002, and was directly responsible for installing CIA asset Hamid Karzai as Afghan president in 2002. Hamid’s brother, warlord of the country’s largest opium province, Kandahar, was paid by the CIA at least since 2001. Khalilzad was clearly aware.

Khalilzad himself had reportedly been “selected” by CIA recruiter, Thomas E. Gouttierre, when Zalmay was an AFS exchange High School student in Ceres, California in the 1960s. Goutttierre headed the CIA-financed Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. That would explain his later career rise to extraordinary influence in US Afghan policy and beyond.

Notably, the disgraced current Afghan “President in flight,” Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the American-appointed “co-president” of Afghanistan, was a classmate of Khalilzad in the early 1970s as an undergraduate at the American University of Beirut, as were both of their future wives. Small world.

By 1996 following several years of civil war among the rival factions of the CIA-backed Mujahideen the Taliban, backed by Pakistan’s ISI, took control of Kabul. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan by 1996 was a direct consequence of Khalilzad’s arming and backing of the Mujahideen in the 1980s, including of Osama bin Laden. It was no accident or miscalculation. The CIA was in the business of weaponizing political Islam and Khalilzad was and is a key player in that. Khalilzad served as board member of the Afghanistan Foundation during the Clinton years, which advocated that the Taliban join forces with the anti-Taliban Mujahideen resistance groups.

During the end of the Clinton Presidency Khalilzad played a key role in shaping the military agenda of the next President with his role in the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), together with Cheney, Wolfowitz, Don Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush and others who played key policy roles in the George W. Bush presidency. After the 911 attacks in 2001 Khalilzad orchestrated the Bush war against Taliban in Afghanistan and became Bush Envoy to Afghanistan. By November 2003 Khalilzad was US Ambassador to Afghanistan where his hand-picked President, Karzai, was installed. In February 2004 Ambassador Khalilzad welcomed US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and a Brigadier General Lloyd Austin in Kabul. Austin knows Khalilzad.

By December 2002 Bush had appointed Khalilzad to be Ambassador at Large for Free Iraqis to coordinate “preparations for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.” Khalilzad and his PNAC neocon cronies had advocated a war to topple Iraq’s Saddam Hussein since the late 1990s, well before 911. Two years later after the US war against Iraq began, Khalilzad was made Ambassador to Iraq. No one person has been more responsible for the rise of radical Islam terror groups from Taliban to Al Qaeda in those two countries than Zalmay Khalilzad.

No “Intelligence Failure”

In 2018 Khalilzad was recommended by US Secretary of State and former CIA head Mike Pompeo, to be US “Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation” for the Trump Administration. There was no hint of reconciliation from Khalilzad or Taliban. Here the wily Khalilzad entered into exclusive US-Taliban talks with their exiled envoys in Doha Qatar, the pro-Taliban Gulf state that houses leading Muslim Brotherhoods figures as well as Taliban. Qatar is reportedly a major money source for the Taliban.

Khalilzad successfully pressed Pakistan to release the co-founder of Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the key strategist of the Taliban victory in 1996, so that Baradar could lead the talks with Khalilzad in Doha. Then-President Trump reportedly approved that Khalilzad would negotiate in Doha solely with the Taliban, without the Kabul regime present. Baradar signed the February 2020 “deal” negotiated by Khalilzad and Taliban, the so-called Doha Agreement, in which the US and NATO agreed to a total withdrawal, but without any Taliban power-sharing agreement with the Kabul Ghani government, as Taliban refused to recognize them. Khalilzad told the New York Times of his deal that Taliban had committed to “do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals.”

This was highly dubious and Khalilzad knew it, as Taliban and Al Qaeda have been intimately linked since the 1980s arrival of Osama bin Laden in Afghanstan. The current leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is reportedly alive and in Taliban safe haven inside Afghanistan. In short, this is the “deal” Khalilzad struck with the Taliban for then-President Trump, a deal which was accepted by the Biden Administration with only a minor change stating initially that September 11, 2021 be the date of final US pullout. Talk about symbolism.

The fall of Afghanistan was not the result of an “intelligence failure” by the CIA or a military mis-calculation by Secretary Austin and the Pentagon. Both knew, as did Khalilzad, what they were doing. When Austin approved the secret dark-of-night abandonment of the strategic Bagram Airbase, largest US military base in Afghanistan, on July 4, without notifying the Kabul government, it made clear to the US-trained Afghan army that the US would give them no more air cover. The US even stopped paying them months ago, collapsing morale further. This was no accident. It was all deliberate and Zalmay Khalilzad was central to all. In the 1980s his role helped create the 1996 Taliban takeover, in 2001 the Taliban destruction, and now in 2021 the Taliban restoration.

The real gainer in this insanity is the globalist agenda of so-called Davos “Great Reset” cabal who are using it to destroy the global influence of the United States, as Biden domestically destroys the economy from within. No nation, not Taiwan, not Japan, not the Philippines, not India or even Australia, nor any other nation hoping for US protection in the future will be able to trust Washington to hold its promises. The fall of Kabul is the end of the American Century. Little wonder the China media is filled with schadenfreude and jubilation as they discuss Silk Road deals with the Taliban.


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F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. 

He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Featured image is from NEO


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26 May 2021The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © F. William Engdahl, Global Research, 2021

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