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Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Neocon Zalmay Khalilzad to be next Afghan leader?

A former US official has reportedly been groomed to assume the second most powerful post in Afghanistan -- a move that will tighten Washington's grip on Kabul.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has agreed to give the former US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, the position of chief executive officer of Afghanistan.

According to senior US and Afghan officials who were speaking on condition of anonymity, the position would allow Khalilzad to serve as some form of "a prime minister, except not prime minister because he wouldn't be responsible to a parliamentary system."

The appointment, which comes amid frosty relations between Karzai and the White House, has raised worldwide concern.

"The idea of having an American as a major senior official of Afghanistan is a very risky one both for the Afghan government and the person in question," noted Teresita C. Schaffer, a former State Department official who is currently a senior South Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.