Sep 13, 2019

House panel subpoenas U.S. Afghanistan envoy in probe of failed peace talks

Zalmay Khalilzad. Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

The House Foreign Affairs Committee subpoenaed U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad on Thursday, ordering him to testify about how months-long peace talks with the Taliban “went off the rails," Politico reports.

Why it matters: This is the committee's first subpoena of the 116th Congress, and it highlights a lack of information from the State Department on the Trump administration's Afghanistan peace plan, according to statements from Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).

Background: Khalilzad said on Sept. 3 that the U.S. and the Taliban struck an "in principle" agreement for 5,400 troops to leave Afghanistan. Trump said those peace talks were "dead" on Sept. 9, after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan that killed an American service member.

“I’m fed up with this Administration keeping Congress and the American people in the dark on the peace process and how we’re going to bring this long war to a close,”
— Rep. Eliot Engel, per Politico

Go deeper: Trump says U.S.-Taliban peace talks are "dead" after Kabul attack

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Mark Esper: Trump ordered stepped-up military operations in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Mark Esper (L) and President Trump (R). Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated on Friday that President Trump has ordered the U.S. military to step up attacks against militants in Afghanistan following failed peace talks with the Taliban, Politico reports.

Where it stands: A Taliban delegation recently met with U.S. diplomat and special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad for informal discussions in the Pakistani capital, the New York Times reports. Taliban members did not identify the talks as formal peace discussions, but said "that one may take place in the future."

Go deeperArrowOct 5, 2019

U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan as Taliban peace talks fizzle

U.S. soldiers walk at the site of a Taliban suicide attack in Kandahar. Photo: Javed Tanveer/AFP/Getty Images

An American Special Forces soldier in eastern Afghanistan was killed in action on Monday, bringing the total U.S. service members to die during combat operations to 17 this year, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: The death comes one week after the Trump administration called off peace talks with the Taliban after a bombing in Kabul killed a U.S. soldier. The Afghanistan war is America's longest, with almost 18 years having passed since Operation Enduring Freedom began. The White House had wanted to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in 2020, but the plans have since stalled amid uncertainty over the future of peace talks.

Go deeper: House panel subpoenas U.S. Afghanistan envoy in probe of failed peace talks

Keep ReadingArrowSep 16, 2019

Afghanistan elections: Turnout strikingly low despite few Taliban attacks

An Afghan soldier casts his ballot in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sept. 28, 2019. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Afghanistan's presidential election didn't see as much violence from the Taliban as some anticipated, but voter turnout was still shockingly low with fewer than 2.5 million showing up at the polls, reports the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The low turnout suggests that whoever wins the elections will "enter office with a weak mandate to lead the struggling democracy and possibly launch peace talks with the Taliban," per the Post. Polls show that current Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his government’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, are the main contenders, but official results aren't expected until Oct. 17, according to the Post.

Go deeperArrowSep 28, 2019