The U.S. should not leave Iraq and Afghanistan just yet, said Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. ambassador to both countries.
Khalilzad, ambassador to Afghanistan until 2005 and Iraq until 2007, said he disagrees with President Barack Obama’s decision to immediately withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.
“We should wait until the next Iraqi election to withdraw,” he said. “We were a cushion for the Iraqi people, and the Shiites and Sunnis are feeling the stress.”
Khalilzad stressed the importance of U.S. intervention in the Middle East as he delivered the annual Weatherspoon Lecture Monday evening at the Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Jim Dean, dean of the business school, said the purpose of the lecture is to “enrich the lives of the community and promote discussion.”
Khalilzad served as the presidential envoy to Afghanistan during the Bush administration and was involved in the early plans to overthrow the Taliban following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Khalilzad said he supported the idea of a major foreign investment in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“There is enormous potential in both countries in terms of oil, gas, agriculture and even tourism, if they can get their act together,” Khalilzad said.
“A great civilization could have an impact on any of those countries — we just need to get Western countries interested.”
Khalilzad also emphasized the importance of other countries in the Middle East, such as Turkey and Iran.
“The United States is the most important power in the world in terms of economy, societal relations and technology,” Khalilzad said.
“But other powers are rising, and power will eventually have to be shared.”
Josselyne Schwartz, a junior international studies major, said she attended the lecture to get a broader view of the Middle East.
“This was the first opportunity I got for a broad learning environment led by someone with a lot of expertise,” Schwartz said.
“I learned a lot,” she said. “This lecture was like reading The New York Times for months, and I got it in one hour.”
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