The US has always operated in ‘grey areas’ in Afghanistan. Today, the superpower remains rigid in its stance, rejecting regional or international peace initiatives that do not include it.At certain critical moments, American actions have even derailed the peace process in Afghanistan. Thus, one can’t help but wonder if the possible appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as the US special envoy to Afghanistan by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could be a similar move. The decision has generated mixed feelings in regional political circles.Afghan-born Republican foreign policy veteran Khalilzad — who previously served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Afghanistan, and Iraq, under George W Bush’s administration between 2003 and 2009 — is known for his longstanding bias against Pakistan; a major, and also indispensable, stakeholder in the resolution of the Afghan conflict. His likely appointment comes as US military commanders acknowledge a stalemate in the war. This acknowledgement, followed by the appointment of Khalilzad, indicates that the US is serious about engaging in talks to end the 17 year old war in Afghanistan. Khalilzad’s possible appointment raises several questions regarding his ability to be a fair interlocutor in the Afghan peace process. His past performance is highlighted by a barrage of allegations levelled against Pakistan in his articles, interviews with the media, political autobiography, and his Twitter account. In an interview with the Afghan TOLO News on December 7, 2015, Khalilzad termed Pakistan the ‘capital’ of terrorism, alleging that the country was providing refuge to extremist groups, including the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. In another interview with TOLO News, on July 13, 2016, he recommended that be listed as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’, accusing the country of using terror proxies contributing to global Islamist extremism. In his autobiography, The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House, My Journey Through a Turbulent World (2016), Khalilzad accused Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency(the ISI) of allowing Pakistani territory to be used by the Taliban for terrorist activities. Continuing his stream of unfounded allegations targeting Pakistan, the former diplomat alleged, on January 4, 2018, in the National Herald that the key reason for the persistence of the Taliban in Afghanistan was Pakistan’s proxy war policy, and encouraged the US to apply additional pressure on Islamabad. Recently, commenting on Pakistan’s newly appointed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s victory speech, Khalilzad did not shy away from re-asserting the accusation that Pakistan’s actual policy was to support the Taliban and the extremist groups in Afghanistan. On his Twitter account, the former envoy tweeted, “Pakistan continues to push war & violence” while his other tweets continue to baselessly point fingers at Pakistan, including its military and security establishment, for any terrorist attacks that occur in Afghanistan. Another tweet even went to the extent of constructing the false notion that Daesh (ISIS/IS) in Afghanistan was Pakistan’s creation. While another tweet encouraged the US Secretary of State to warn against IMF bailout of Pakistan, falsely claiming that Pakistan’s alleged support for terrorists had led to the death of many Americans and others. Khalilzad’s past performance is highlighted by a barrage of allegations levelled against Pakistan in his articles, interviews with the media, political autobiography, and his Twitter account Taking his spiteful and unfounded statements into account, one would obviously question Washington’s appointment of him as the US special envoy, and whether his views would leave any room for him to be a fair interlocutor in the peace process. It is also worth recalling that the US CENTCOM Commander Joseph L. Votel had acknowledged the key importance of Pakistan’s cooperation for a durable political settlement in Afghanistan in a briefing to the Pentagon in July this year. Here, another major question arises; does the US even want to end the conflict in Afghanistan? Of late, the war-torn country has experienced some positivity in its relations with its neighbour, Pakistan. This positivity is evidenced in the signing of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), operationalising of the five working groups for cooperation in different fields, the recent exchange visits of top officials for implementation of the policy framework, and Ghani’s visit invitation to Pakistan’s newly appointed PM Imran Khan last month. Pakistan and Afghanistan appear to have finally embarked on the road to positive relations, which certainly bodes well for the resolution of the Afghan conflict. However, the US’ possible appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as the new interlocutor but the US cannot be overlooked as a potential hurdle in the peace process. The writer is a Research Fellow & Programme Consultant at the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and its sister organisation, Afghan Studies Center (ASC). She is also the author of Pakistan: A Pivot for Hizbut Tahrir’s Global Caliphate? She tweets @SitwatWB Published in Daily Times, September 4th 2018.