U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late on September 4 that he has appointed former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad to be his special adviser on Afghanistan.
"Ambassador Khalilzad is going to join the State Department team to assist us in the reconciliation effort, so he will come on and be the State Department's lead person for that purpose," Pompeo told reporters traveling with him on a visit to Pakistan and India.
Khalilzad's appointment signals that the administration is putting a renewed focus on the Afghan peace process. He has experience working for four U.S. presidential administrations and has knowledge of Afghanistan’s main languages, culture, and politics. He is from Afghanistan's ethnic Pashtun majority.
As an aide to President George W. Bush, Khalilzad helped plan the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that led to the ouster of the Taliban's government and set off a 17-year war for control of the country.
Pompeo said that during his visit to Islamabad, he will emphasize that the United States wants Pakistan to help more in ending Afghanistan's 17-year war.
U.S. and Afghan officials claim that Afghan militants fighting against the government have found safe havens in Pakistan where they can plot deadly attacks and regroup after their yearly offensives across the border. Pakistan denies that it harbors terrorists.
"We need Pakistan to seriously engage to help us get to the reconciliation we need in Afghanistan," Pompeo said.
In a policy shift in June, Washington said it would "support, facilitate, and participate" in any Kabul government-led peace talks with the Taliban.
The Taliban has spurned the Afghan government's offers for talks, however, and instead has staged a surge in violence around the country this year.