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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.

Go deeper

Justice Department asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block Texas' near-total ban on abortions while federal courts consider its constitutionality.

The big picture: The court last month allowed the ban to take effect, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The law bars the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

This arthritis drug cost $198 in 2008. Now it's more than $10,000

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In 2008, a box of 30 anti-inflammatory rectal suppositories that treats arthritis, called Indocin, had a price tag of $198. As of Oct. 1, the price of that same box was 52 times higher, totaling $10,350.

Why it matters: As federal lawmakers continue to waver on drug price reforms, Indocin is another example of how nothing prevents drug companies from hiking prices at will and selling them within a broken supply chain.

Fintech's record year

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Massive venture rounds into fintech companies have ballooned this year, pushing up total dollars invested — in just the first three quarters of 2021 — to nearly double the amount in all of 2020, per new PitchBook data.

Why it matters: The maturing of fintech startups means a growing number of companies are able to raise huge later-stage funding rounds as investors look to lock-in their bets.