Kael Weston is a writer, a diplomat, a teacher—and the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. He represented the U.S. for the State Department in Iraq & Afghanistan and wrote a book about his experience: The Mirror Test. Kael is committed to strengthening the Democratic party and supporting candidates throughout the state. Learn more at KaelWeston.com
Kael Weston is the presumptive Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. As a former State Department official for over a decade, he represented the U.S. in two war zones: Iraq and Afghanistan. Ambassador Robert Ford, Kael’s boss in Iraq, told Newsweek that Kael “had the toughest, most dangerous assignment of any State Department officer worldwide.”
For his multi-year civilian service in the Iraq War alongside U.S. Marines, Kael Weston was awarded the Secretary of State’s Medal for Heroism, one of the U.S. State Department’s highest honors.
Kael’s book The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq & Afghanistan was selected by the New York Times as an Editors’ Choice and designated a top book of the year by The Military Times.
Since leaving the State Department, Kael teaches at Marine Corps University, where he holds an endowed chair in Insurgency and Terrorism. He has written for the New York Times, Salt Lake Tribune, and many other papers. He is a member of Salt Lake County’s Open Space Trust Committee.
This year, in the three-way race for U.S. Senate, we have a unique opportunity to elect a Democrat, building from the Biden 38% coalition statewide in 2020. This is a race that we can win.
Kael is committed to strengthening the Democratic party and supporting down ballot candidates throughout the state, building on his campaign in 2020 for CD2 in 14 of Utah’s 29 counties.
Learn more at KaelWeston.com.
Kael Weston, a resident of Salt Lake City, is seeking the Democratic Party nomination in Utah for the U.S. Senate.
In 2020, Weston was the Democratic candidate in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District against Republican Chris Stewart. He received 37% of the vote in a gerrymandered district that encompassed 14 mostly rural Utah counties, almost half the state geographically. During that campaign, Weston traveled over 8,000 miles in his old truck. Weston sought out meetings with Republican and unaffiliated voters, not just Democrats, including attending county commission meetings. During Sean Hannity’s and Glenn Beck’s programs, he put on radio ads across southern Utah about keeping rural post offices open and the importance of rural healthcare.
Weston is a native of Utah, with deep family roots in rural Milford, Utah (pop. 1,731) that go back to the 19th century. He is the grandson of a lifelong Union Pacific Railroader and small-town furniture store owners, son of a retired elementary school teacher, his mother, and of a Downwinder, his dad. Weston’s father passed away from cancer in May 2021 at Huntsman Cancer Institute. His late uncle served as a Beaver County Commissioner (a Democrat) for over three decades.
Weston is a former U.S. State Department official. For over a decade, he represented the U.S. Government in various capacities, most of that time in two war zones. In New York, while at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Weston served as the U.S. representative on the Al Qaeda & Taliban Sanctions Committee. In Iraq, he was the State Department representative in Fallujah, including during and after the biggest battle in that war. In this role, he and Marine leaders were responsible for rebuilding the city’s infrastructure, facilitating the return of hundreds of thousands of Fallujans back into the city, establishing a new city council despite numerous assassinations of local politicians, and working closely with Iraqi governors in Ramadi and central Iraqi government representatives in Baghdad. Several nation-wide elections and a constitutional referendum were held across Iraq during this time.
In Afghanistan, Weston served as the U.S. representative in Khost Province, a dangerous region adjacent to Pakistan and one-time home of Osama bin Laden and where he partnered with the provincial governor, tribal elders and religious leaders. He helped prioritize over $50 million dollars in U.S. reconstruction funds. In Helmand Province, he worked closely with a Marine commanding general. Together, they oversaw the frontline strategy guiding the deployment of approximately 20,000 U.S. troops in the Taliban-filled area where many American service members were killed-in-action and wounded.
Ambassador Robert Ford, Weston’s boss in Iraq, told Newsweek that Weston “had the toughest, most dangerous assignment of any State Department officer worldwide.” The article also described how he helped reunite military working dogs with Marine handlers, including two labs named Rocky & Freeze who had done dangerous “war dog” duty in Afghanistan.
For his multi-year civilian service in the Iraq War alongside U.S. Marines, Weston was awarded the Secretary of State’s Medal for Heroism, one of the U.S. State Department’s highest honors.
In reviewing Weston’s nonfiction book, The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq & Afghanistan (Knopf, 2016) about his time in the wars, James Traub wrote for the New York Times Book Review:
As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have begun to dwindle, however fitfully, in the national rearview mirror, they have come to be regarded not as, respectively, “the war of necessity” and “the war of choice,” or “the right war” and “the wrong war,” but rather as the two leading specimens of a catastrophically mistaken era of intervention. Realist scholars like Michael Mandelbaum and critics of American power like Andrew Bacevich tell us that the failure of such “nation building” efforts was foreordained — and richly deserved. If that’s right, perhaps the time has finally come to abandon our reformist mission civilisatrice.
J. Kael Weston may be better suited to answer this question than any man alive. He spent seven harrowing years on the front lines of both wars as a State Department official serving as a political adviser to American troops. Some readers may recognize his name, for Weston is the civilian hero of “Little America,” Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book about Obama’s counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan — a diplomat of great bravery, erudition and heart who befriended Afghans and stood up to his own superiors.
The author of “The Mirror Test” is recognizably that figure. Weston chose to spend three years in the Mad Max inferno of Falluja, much of it in a tiny post where he was the only civilian embedded with two dozen Marines. He had a front-row seat for the slaughter that ensued when American forces were ordered, in 2004, to retake the city from insurgents, obliterating much of it in the process. Weston essentially assigned himself the job of finding local partners willing to work with Americans to rebuild Falluja in exchange for endless stacks of American money, and, even more urgently, to function as the city’s informal government.
Weston’s book was selected by the New York Times as an Editors’ Choice and designated a top book of the year by The Military Times. Terry Gross interviewed Weston about his book on her program, FreshAir.
While serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — seven consecutive years (2003-2010) — Weston was almost killed several times, including surviving a suicide car bomb attack, RPGs, roadside bombs, and Taliban machine gun bullets that hit a mud compound wall a few feet away.
After leaving the State Department, Weston has been teaching at Marine Corps University, where he holds an endowed chair in Insurgency and Terrorism. He has also taught at Westminster College and the University of Utah. Weston has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and has been frequently interviewed by NPR about national security.
Weston writes regularly for the Salt Lake Tribune and has also had opinion pieces published in the Deseret News. He is a member of Salt Lake County’s Open Space Trust Committee.