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FDD’s Long War Journal’s response to Zalmay Khalilzad’s Twitter thread


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Foundation for Defense of Democracies

The LWJ Editors

Apr. 27 2023

In a brief Twitter thread responding to a recent article from The Washington Post, Zalmay Khalilzad, one of the key architects of the 2020 Doha Agreement that set the stage for the collapse of Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, continued to tout his failed deal and again urged the U.S to cooperate with the Taliban regime. 

The article in question, “Afghanistan has become a terrorism staging ground again, leak reveals,” detailed leaked U.S intelligence documents that provide worrying assessments of activities, including external attack plotting, by the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (IS-K) from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. FDD’s Long War Journal cannot speak to the veracity of the leaked documents, but the assessments match current open-source evidence of the Islamic State’s operations in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad, speaking on-brand with his previous statements, vehemently denied this depiction of Afghanistan. According to Khalilzad, since the U.S. withdrawal at the end of Aug. 2021, Afghanistan has not become a terrorist safe haven. Instead, Khalilzad claimed Al Qaeda has “declined significantly,” while “the U.S. and the Taliban have a common interest against the Islamic State Khorasan Province,” and said it is possible to “hold the Taliban to their commitments on terrorism.” He claimed the Taliban can be relied on as a counterterrorism partner and “the experience of the last two years is better than many expected.”

Khalilzad’s points are at-best demonstrably false, and at worst, entirely dangerous. For instance, Khalizad’s stance that the Doha Agreement is enforceable in any way, shape or form enforceable is both. The U.S. drone strike that killed Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri as he sheltered at a Taliban run safe house in Kabul last summer should have put Khalilzad’s proposition to rest. And yet Khalilzad continues to push for engagement with the Taliban.

Khalilzad’s Twitter thread is nothing if not consistent with his previous public statements on Afghanistan and the Doha Agreement. In addition, the former ambassador continues to downplay the Taliban-al-Qaeda-alliance, the most important jihadi alliance in Afghanistan (and beyond). 

And to note the sad coincidence, Khalilzad’s thread of his repeated talking points largely fall in line with what Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s official spokesman, himself said about The Washington Post’s article.

Given Zalmay’s continued outsized relevance pertaining to U.S policy in Afghanistan, FDD’s Long War Journal feels it necessary to refute the key ideas in Khalilzad’s Twitter thread, point by point.


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