« radio tomorrow | Main | Sadr or Iran »

January 05, 2007



Any thoughts on how Khalilzad's (other) status as Pashtun/Muslim/Neocon will be read by regional players? His ethno/religous/political profile seems certain to annoy the Iranians at the same time it reassures the Saudis. I'm assuming he's Sunni, btw.


Dear jr786,

Zalmay Khalilzad is Sunni Muslim. There are no Shi'ite Pashtun (in Afghanistan; there's at least one Shi'ite Pashtun tribe in Pakistan, the Turi).

His ethno-religious profile was never a big issue. Neither did the Iranians have any problems with him being a Sunni Pashtun, nor were the Saudis particularly assured by it.

He is judged as someone from the region who has become Americanized. He is perceived to be a representative of the Bush administration. In a sense, he is seen as one who is working for a foreign master instead of "his people", particularly since he is - as opposed to, for ex., John Abizaid - a 1st generation immigrant.

Being perceived as a "neocon" or at least close to and friendly with them isn't helping much, either.



PS: I am getting the impression that this whole Sunni/Shi'a divide issue is seen as principally & decisively important by outside observers of the region. It isn't.


Dear MSK, Thanks for the feedback. I was curious about his background because I read he was born in Mazar-i-Sharif, an unlikely origin for a Pashtun. Based on your comments, he doesn't seem like that much of an improvement on Bolton, more like a cultural amphibian not remotely sympathetic to Muslim interests unless such interests originate with the Administration. Which they never do.

The Lounsbury


A representative of the US in the UN is not there to be "remotely sympathetic" to "Muslim interests" (whatever that means), but to effectively represent US interests, as defined by the elected government.


Unlike Bolton, Khalilzad shows every sign of having the personal diplomatic skill to do so. That will be an improvement, in and of itself, as having utterly gratitious conflict between the US and the rest of the World serves no one's real interests, except perhaps the apocalyptic al Qaeda crowd's.

Now, one can wait for a magical transformation of the current American administration, but you may as well wait for a Hidden Imam to be revealed.

The Lounsbury

BTW, Bou Aardvark, I don't care for the new banner. Ugly. One Aardvark, larger image probably would be more aesthetically pleasing to your key Lounsbury constituency. We're so important after all.


Mate, A closer reading would have revealed the qualification that such interests would have to originate with the Administration, the elected government. Is it so difficult to imagine what Muslim interests might be? My Muslim friends can easily list dozens.

Personally, I hope that ZK is even less effective than Bolton in implementing the desired interests of this Administration, since it is those interests that have been utterly disastrous for Muslims. But I forget, we have no interests.


Dear jr786,

indeed, the general idea is that the Pashtun area is on both sides of the Durrand Line (a.k.a. the Afghanistan-Pakistan border). In principle, that is correct but there is a small detail that is usually not known outside Afghan circles: when Amir Abd al-Rahman Khan (ruled 1880-1901, he was THE unifier of Afghanistan and laid the groundwork for the modern state) wanted to cement his rule over Afghan Turkestan (i.e. the areas between the Hindukush mountains and the Panj/Amudarya rivers) he settled Pashtun - i.e., people he could trust - from the South-East there, all the way up to what is now the far North-West of the country. Et voila - you have Pashtun in Mazar al-Sharif.

Btw, the "original" inhabitants of Mazar & environs (Turkic and Tajik speakers) are mostly Sunni anyway. The big Shi'ite group are the Hazara of the (you guessed it) Hazarajat (main town is Bamyan), followed by the Farsiwan of Herat (just over the border from Iran, so no surprise there) and the Isma'ilis in the Wakhan.

As for "improvement on Bolton", I fully agree with AA's and L's comments. Khalilzad IS very experienced and quite able. My own comment was on his perception among people in the region, and my own experience is that people of local ancestry who work for foreign governments (particularly 1st gen emigrees) are often seen as "turncoats" or "traitors" and not as possible allies or lobbyists for the local/regional interests.

In the specific case of Khalilzad, his work for US oil companies (UNOCAL, who wanted to build a pipeline through Afghanistan and didn't mind doing this in cooperation with the Taliban) and the neocons is what keeps coming up in conversations and articles.

Thus, while he undoubtedly be a much better US ambassador to the UN than Bolton was, his appointment will do absolutely nothing to improve US standing in the region.


No Preference

I second Lounsbury's opinion on the new banner.


Dear MSK, Thanks for the info. I'll be a bit more direct in my comments on ZK. The Bush Administration, which I despise, is clearly not above milking the appointment of the first Muslim to a meaningful post. What is clear is that ZK's (presumed) Muslimness will be irrelevant to the job at hand, in the same way that Gen. Abazaid's (presumed) uruba never materialized in any way that could be said to ameliorate the suffering of Arab Muslims. I know, I know, it doesn't matter vis-a vis American interests, but since I actually care about such things I always feel compelled to mention them.

ZK's Muslimness is thus irrelevant, something to remember when Bush et al. milk that Muslimness in PR attempts to show its 'even-handedness' in the region. Would ZK have been as ardent an advocate of Israeli bombing in Lebanon, in which Bolton was a staunch mouthpiece for the Administration? No doubt he'll get his chance when the bombs start dropping on the Iranians. In any case, lots more dead Muslims to come.

Incidentally, I was in Mazar in Sep 1993, just before the civil war took full flight. Even then, there was no evidence of any remaining Pashtun presence.


Dear jr786,

John Abizaid is of Lebanese Maronite heritage. All those family names with an "Abi" in the beginning (Abi Zaid, Abi Aad, etc.) are Maronite Christians.

As I pointed out above, Khalilzad is quite an able diplomat and hence will not behave like the proverbial elephant in the porcelain shop a la Bolton. He will represent the interests of the administration - as he had in Kabul and Baghdad.

As for Pashtun in Mazar in '93, I am curious: How would you've known if there were any Pashtun in the area? (Of course, I'm even more curious about what brought you there ...)




Dear MSK, I'm aware that Abizaid is Christian. I referred to his arabness, something which once included Christians and Jews, but which seems now to concern only Muslim Arabs. I heard nothing of Abizaid that indicated his Arabness besides his facility with the language.

In my opinion, the interests of the Bush Administration, in regard to Muslims in particular, and Arabs (Pashtun) in general, are marginally better than those of Hulagu Khan. That's a bit of hyperbole of course, but if Khalilzad ends up shilling for the destruction of Muslim quarters of Beirut while Christian neighborhoods remain unscathed, a lá Bolton, Rice et al. then he ceases to be Muslim. He has a responsibility as a Muslim that can and should in some way mitigiate the vicious and criminal excesses that the Bush Administration and the neo-cons have foisted on the Arab/Muslim world. That includes Afghanistan, of course. Neither the Arabs nor the Muslims can afford a more effective Bolton, at least not while William Kristol remains the final arbiter of American foreign policy and the Likudniks own the only clear channel to Bush's remaining brain (and heart) cells.

I spent months traveling in the NWFP and Af. I wanted to get to know non-Arab Muslims. It's a pathetic to realize that it will probably take decades, if ever, for Americans to have the same chance to travel freely in that part of the world.


Hey everybody, I don't love the new banner either. I experimented with three or four designs, then ran out of time... this was the best of the lot. I'll change it eventually.

Re Zal, I didn't even mean his Muslimness or Arabness - just that he's a serious and experienced guy who knows how to work constructively with other diplomats.


In my opinion, the interests of the Bush Administration, in regard to Muslims in particular, and Arabs (Pashtun) in general, are marginally better than those of Hulagu Khan. That's a bit of hyperbole of course, but if Khalilzad ends up shilling for the destruction of Muslim quarters of Beirut while Christian neighborhoods remain unscathed, a lá Bolton, Rice et al. then he ceases to be Muslim.

you realize that khalilzad works for rice (and ultimately bush). as an ambassador he works for the state department and president, so he really has to toe the administration's line on any major policy decisions. now maybe he should have resigned in protest to bush's various policies. he could have done that, but if he had that in him, he wouldn't have gotten the job in the first place.

i think all that sayid ardvaark is saying here is that khalilzad is a professional diplomat, not a blunt fruitcake like bolton. ultimately, he will be supporting the same policies as bolton because those policies are still the policies of the bush administration. he just will be better at spinning the bush administration's policies into a less offensive package and at knowing that he doesn't always have to be a dickhead to everyone to represent the world's only superpower.

that raises an interesting question whether it would be better to have bolton rather than khalilizad as ambassador, simply because bolton wasn't very good at his job and thus did a worse job advancing bush's policies at the u.n. maybe khalilzad is an effective and diplomatic salesman, but the world just doesn't need what he's selling

(hey ardvaark, what's the deal with qahwa sada? are you gonna relaunch it or what?)


Look, I know that ZK 'will have to toe the line on any major policy decisions', or quit. My point is that he doesn't just sit around waiting for the next decree soming from Olympus. HE HAS INPUT, NO? Or has the job of US Ambassador to the United Nations suddenly turned into mindless mouthpiece for the Administration.

I doubt that Douglas Feith, Elliot Abrams Richard Perle and John 'Take a Number' Bolton hovered around like waiters anxious to fulfill Bush's desires without influencing his decisions. They've had plenty of input in forming policy rather than in just implementing it.

Well, I hope ZK suggests policy ideas that are a little more understanding and considerate to Arabs and Muslims beyond wondering how much ordnance their bodies can absorb. His Muslimness should matter more. If it doesn't, Bush should nominate Feith.


Actually, an ambassador is a mindless mouthpiece for whatever government they represent. The minute they toe out of line with the official policies they are reprimanded, demoted or fired. Their influence is mostly limited to filing reports back to the hq on their station. No one necessarily takes note of those reports.


I'm surprised that anyone would say anything positive about Khalilzad. He has a long career as a neo-con "intellectual," opposing disarmament, promoting US support for the Afghani mujahideen, and an important architect of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He's chummy with Cheney and Rumsfeld and W. He helped institute the mess that Afghanistan has become as first US ambassador there, and has presided over the disaster in Iraq as ambassador there. With all these "successes," why do so many people praise him as a "seasoned diplomat"? He's just a brown face on what are by far the worst and most disastrous US Middle East policies ever. How can we give this guy ANY credit? (And by the way, the mainstream media just fawn all over him, just because he can sit and drink tea comfortably with all the Iraqi factions, etc. Much like the way they did with Colin Powell and continue to do with Condi.)


Khalilzad has those opinions because he's been told to have those opinions, his job is to represent those opinions in the best way possible and conduct negotiations from that position. A good diplomat will go a long way to defuse tension, even if he represents idiotic opinions.


Dear MSK ' ... Bush's braincells ...' Plural???

Dear jr786- wasn't it Graham Greene who defined a diplomat as someone who was sent abroad to lie for their country? A good diplomat is not a mindless mouthpiece, because a good diplomat knows when it is more effective to keep his/her mouth shut, something Bolton could never be accused of.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Blog powered by Typepad