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Gen. Mark Milley. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with Taliban negotiators in Qatar on Tuesday and flew to Afghanistan on Wednesday to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to urge a reduction in violence, AP reports.

Why it matters: It's the second time that Milley, the U.S. military's top general, has met face-to-face with negotiators from the militant group that ruled Afghanistan in the early stages of America's longest war. Milley previously met with Taliban negotiators in Qatar in June, a meeting that was not reported until today.

The big picture: Trump signed a deal with the Taliban this February that called for a U.S. troop withdrawal. That retreat was contingent on peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, and on a promise from the Taliban not to allow terror groups like al-Qaeda to use Afghanistan as a base of operations.

  • In November, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said the U.S. would reduce troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 by January, with a complete troop withdrawal depending on the Taliban's willingness to reduce attacks in Afghanistan.
  • But violence in Afghanistan has continued and in some cases escalated.

What they're saying: "The most important part of the discussions that I had with both the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan was the need for an immediate reduction in violence," Milley told a group of reporters who accompanied him on the trips, including AP's Robert Burns.

  • The general has not reported any sort of breakthrough from his talks.

What to watch: President-elect Joe Biden has promised to pull troops out of Afghanistan, but he has also mentioned the idea of leaving a small number behind to combat terrorist groups.

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What happened: Private prison operator CoreCivic and private prison REIT Geo fell by 7.8% and 4.1%, respectively, while marijuana ETF MJ dropped 2% and payday lenders World Acceptance and EZCorp each fell by more than 1%.

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