Run for President of Afghanistan? Zalmay, Zalmay Not.

Even so, it doesn't sound as if Madeleine Albright would want a female president Clinton to ask her to take another turn as secretary of state.
Even so, it doesn't sound as if Madeleine Albright would want a female president Clinton to ask her to take another turn as secretary of state. (Cup Photo Courtesy Of Betty Cohen)
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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Seems everyone is riveted to news reports about the presidential campaign here. Everyone, that is, except some folks at the United Nations, where persistent chatter has it that Zalmay Khalilzad, our ambassador to the U.N., is also thinking of running for president . . . of Afghanistan.

The Afghan-born Khalilzad, a former Pentagon official, former ambassador to Afghanistan, then to Iraq and now to the U.N., is said to be in the mix for a run, which would probably be in the fall of 2009.

Honest. This is a real rumor. So real that we hear Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked Khalilzad about it when the two met in London back in October. But Khalilzad didn't give a Shermanesque response.

Another U.N. official asked him to say no more definitively, but Khalilzad declined, another official told our colleague Colum Lynch. On Dec. 12, a reporter asked Khalilzad about his "plans after your current job, if you have any."

"Well, I have no particular plan at this time," he replied, other than to leave at the end of the administration and "work in the United States in some job" in the private sector. "As to other plans," he said, "it is only plans in the United States after I finish this job." Which may have been his way of saying he isn't running.

But that apparently wasn't good enough. The rumors persist. Asked about this on Monday afternoon, Khalilzad said through spokesman Richard Grenell: "He is not a candidate for president of Afghanistan."

Of course he isn't. Not yet, anyway.

Last Call for High Honors

Don't forget! The deadline is midnight tonight for the In the Loop contest to guess what the intended target was in that still-suspicious fire last month in Vice President Cheney's office in the Old Executive Office Building.

Send your entries to Top 10 winners, in addition to bragging rights and a mention in the column, also get a coveted, official In the Loop T-shirt. Hill and administration folks can enter on background. You must include a daytime or cellphone number. Good luck.

Next Year: The Photos

It looked at first like a typical "Dear Friends and Family" blast holiday greeting. You know the ones -- desperately in need of editing -- that tell you all about Jenny's first year in school and Taylor's fourth-grade soccer exploits.

The one we got from Gloria Squitiro, wife of recently elected Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Mark Funkhouser started that way, talking about the election last May, her role as his campaign manager, how difficult it was being mayor and so on.

Then: "Believe it or not, but winning the election wasn't the best thing that happened to Funk" (as she calls him), Squitiro wrote on Dec. 21. "No, getting his first prostate exam . . . was the highlight of his year. And watching Funk get the exam was the biggest joy of mine."

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