Jumping Ship

JUMPING SHIP….I can understand why this isn’t getting much attention, but it’s pretty bad news:

Zalmay Khalilzad, the plainspoken dealmaker and Republican insider who has won praise and criticism for attempts to broker Sunni political participation in Iraq’s fragile government, is likely to quit his post as U.S. ambassador in Baghdad in the coming months, a senior Bush administration official said Monday…..His replacement in Baghdad may be Ryan Crocker, a senior career diplomat who is currently U.S. ambassador to Pakistan.

….National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, during a Baghdad visit on Friday, told [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] that Khalilzad would leave about the first of the year and replaced by Crocker, according to two top aides to the Iraqi leader. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to release information.

Khalilzad is a pretty competent guy in an administration with a dire shortage of competent guys, and we can ill afford to lose him. Mark Kleiman runs down the list of possible reasons for Khalilzad’s departure (Iraq is a lost cause, Bush wants to engineer a coup and Khalilzad wants no part of it, Maliki demanded a new ambassador), but leaves out the possibility that three years in Afghanistan and Iraq is simply as much as you can expect from anyone. He might just be exhausted.

Still, I suspect Mark is right: “If Khalilzad still thought his strategy had a chance of success, he wouldn’t be talking about leaving.” That’s probably so. Like I said, it’s bad news.

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