President Bush is nominating Zalmay Khalilzad, a former White House national security aide and the current U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, to be the new U.S. envoy to Iraq. He'll replace John Negroponte, who has left the Baghdad post to become national intelligence director.
The embassy in Baghdad, set up when the American-led occupation of the country officially ended last year, is by far the largest U.S. overseas mission with a staff of several hundred diplomats and other officials.
And President Bush is filling the ambassador's post with one of his closest advisers and most experienced diplomats, Mr. Khalilzad, an Afghan-American who has run the U.S. mission in Afghanistan for the past year.
The President's intention to move Mr. Khalilzad to the Baghdad job had been known for about a month.
But the nomination was formally announced at a press event Tuesday by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said Mr. Khalilzad was being chosen for his proven record of consensus-building and achieving results in tough situations.
She hailed his tenure in Kabul, helping the Afghan government as it managed the country's first free and open election in the country's history.
She said he will now turn to the unique situation in Iraq, where the newly elected Transitional National Assembly will soon begin work on a constitution and lay groundwork for the next set of elections late this year:
"As this political process continues, Zal [Mr. Khalilzad] will be a valuable representative for the United States, and a wise counselor to the new Iraqi government," said Ms. Rice. "But the political process is only a small part of our partnership with Iraq. Zal will also work with all institutions of our government and those of other nations to continue our efforts to help Iraq build the institutions of freedom."
For his part, Mr. Khalilzad said he intended to work with Iraqis of all sects, ethnic groups, and with the country's women to accelerate successes generated by January's elections, to help that country move from its current difficulties to where it can become an example to the wider region of a thriving democracy and prosperous society.
"If confirmed, I will lead the implementation of an integrated strategy to defeat the insurgency by working with the Iraqi government to field effective Iraqi security forces, to engage politically with all elements in Iraq that wish to enact an enlightened constitution, and build the new democratic political order," he said.
Mr. Khalizad's nomination will require Senate confirmation, which is considered a virtual certainty.
Ambassador Negroponte, whom he replaces, is already back in Washington preparing for confirmation hearings next week on his nomination for the newly-created post of national intelligence director.