U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to tap Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born former U.S. ambassador to Kabul and Iraq, as his special envoy on Afghanistan, two U.S. officials said, the latest signal to the Taliban that the United States is serious about talks to end its longest war.
The decision to tap Khalilzad, a Republican foreign policy veteran, comes as U.S. military commanders acknowledge a stalemate in the fighting and follows a meeting last month between a U.S. diplomat and Taliban officials to explore possible negotiations.
The administration has not officially confirmed those talks.
The two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were unsure when the announcement would be made. The White House and the State Department declined to comment, and Khalilzad did not return messages left with his office.
The outgoing U.S. commander of U.S. and international troops insisted on Wednesday that despite a recent wave of violence, Trump’s strategy of an open-ended deployment of U.S. military advisers, trainers and special operations forces and increased air support for Afghan forces is succeeding.
“I believe the strategy is working. … The reconciliation progress is significant and ultimately wars end with a political settlement,” said U.S. Army General John Nicholson, commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.