George W. Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan is considering taking a powerful, unelected position in Hamid Karzai’s government, the New York Times reports. Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born US citizen, had considered running against Karzai for president, but missed the filing deadline. Senior American and Afghan officials say Karzai has offered to create a post for him as "CEO" of Afghanistan, described as a prime minister-like role that would be independent of parliamentary oversight.
Karzai is hoping not only to co-opt a rival, but to score points with a wary Obama administration. The White House says it’s not behind the idea, and officials fear backlash if the Afghan public thinks it was. “This has the makings of a really bad movie,” one South Asia expert said, but added that, “Zal has intimate knowledge of the country, and was involved to a degree that was virtually unheard of for an ambassador.” A Karzai spokesman has denied the report, telling Reuters, “We cannot confirm this."