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The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House, My Journey Through a Turbulent World, Zalmay Khalilzad

Reviewed by Paul R. Pillar

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Zalmay Khalilzad had superb vantage points from which to witness some of the more consequential episodes in U.S. foreign and security policy over the past three decades. He was ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations and held senior posts in the Defense Department and White House in both Bush administrations. He also had the unusual—for someone attaining these positions—background of being born and raised in Afghanistan, where as a boy he rode to elementary school on horseback. Studying under Albert Wohlstetter at the University of Chicago was Khalilzad’s entrée into circles that would dominate much of national security policymaking in Republican administrations. Khalilzad became thoroughly Americanized long ago, but his origins show through in some of his perspectives toward more recent problems.

This book is most useful as a narrative that supplements accounts in other memoirs and in the first drafts of history written by journalists. Khalilzad helped make policy as well as witnessed it, but at levels below the top and as someone who had to make things happen on the ground abroad and not just make pronouncements in Washington. Some of his account fills in gaps in the stories told by others. Some of it reminds us of things that have been forgotten or were never well learned in the first place, such as that George W. Bus

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