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Veteran Diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad to Present Carleton Convocation

April 8, 2013
By Jacob Cohn '13

Zalmay Khalilzad, a foreign policy expert and former diplomat who has served as the ambassador of the United States to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, will deliver Carleton College’s convocation address on Friday, Apr. 12. Khalilzad’s address, entitled “U.S. Global Leadership,” will take a worldwide look at the challenges faced by the U.S. in the world, their implications for the American people and what effective American strategy in the future could look like. Convocation is held from 10:50-11:50 a.m. in the Skinner Memorial Chapel, and it is free and open to the public. Convocations are also streamed live and can be viewed online at

Khalilzad was appointed as the 26th U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by President George W. Bush in 2007, serving until the end of Bush’s term in 2009. He represented the U.S. in the United Nations during a turbulent period that included the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India and the U.S.’s recognition of the independence of the Republic of Kosovo. Khalilzad also dealt with ongoing international issues such as international terrorism, the then-ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ongoing tensions with countries such as Iran and North Korea. Before moving to the United Nations, Khalilzad served as the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq from 2005 until 2007, where he played an instrumental role in the ratification of Iraq’s new constitution and in the establishment of a democratic political system; during the initial invasion of Iraq he had been placed in charge of planning for Iraq’s future after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Khalilzad also served as ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003 until 2005, where he helped implement the country’s first free elections. Khalilzad has also been involved with the U.S. Department of State and the White House in a number of policymaking capacities, including as Special Assistant to the President and as a senior director at the State Department dealing with the Middle East and North Africa. 

Born in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, Khalilzad was the highest-ranking Muslim American in the George W. Bush administration. Khalilzad studied political science at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon and the University of Chicago, and he taught at Columbia University and the University of California at San Diego before making the full-time transition to policymaking. He began his work on the Middle East at the Department of State beginning in 1985, and he served as Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning from 1991 until 1992. From 1993 until 1999 Khalilzad worked at the RAND Corporation, a nonpartisan policy analysis think tank, where he served as Director of the Strategy, Doctrine and Force Structure program for RAND's Project Air Force. While at RAND he founded the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and was one of the founding members of the Project for a New American Century, which was an early proponent of regime change in Iraq and would become highly influential in George W. Bush’s administration. Khalilzad later led the Bush-Cheney transition team for the Department of Defense. His writings on U.S. leadership and foreign policy have been translated into dozens of languages, and he has received three Department of Defense medals for Distinguished Service, as well as Afghanistan’s highest medal. 

For more information about this event, including disability accommodations, contact the Carleton College Office of College Relations at (507) 222-4308. The Skinner Memorial Chapel is located on First Street between College and Winona Streets in Northfield.