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Taliban negotiators in Doha, Qatar. Photo: Patrick Semansky/Pool/AFP via Getty

The Taliban will not attend "any conference that shall make decisions about Afghanistan" until "all foreign forces completely withdraw," a spokesperson for the group tweeted on Tuesday.

Why it matters: That's an explicit rejection of an upcoming peace conference in Istanbul. It also follows President Biden's announcement that the U.S. will withdraw its troops by Sept. 11, but miss a deadline to do so by May 1.

  • The UN said Tuesday that the Istanbul conference would take place April 24–May 4 and aim to help the Taliban and Afghan government move toward a "just and durable political settlement."
  • The Taliban, closer than ever to its goal of outlasting the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, seems to be suggesting that any such efforts will be on hold until all U.S. troops are withdrawn.
  • Flashback: The Trump administration reached a deal with the Taliban last year that called for a full U.S. withdrawal by May 1. As of now, there are around 10,000 NATO troops in the country, of which roughly 3,500 are American.

What they're saying: A senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday that the Sept. 11 deadline was "not conditions-based," meaning the U.S. would exit regardless of the military and political circumstances.

  • In the meantime, the official said, the U.S. would put "the full weight of our government behind diplomatic efforts to reach a peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government."
  • "But what we will not do is use our troops as bargaining chips in that process," the official added.

Go deeper

Apr 13, 2021 - World

Biden seeks to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11

Photo: Amr Alfiky/New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden is expected to announce plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The decision, expected to be publicly announced Wednesday, means thousands of soldiers will remain in the country beyond the current May 1 deadline, which the Trump administration negotiated with the Taliban last year.

Pentagon chief announces U.S. will station 500 additional troops in Germany

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer walks with Austin upon his arrival at the Defense Ministry on April 13. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on a trip to Berlin Tuesday that the U.S. will station an additional 500 troops in Germany as soon as this fall "to strengthen deterrence and defense in Europe."

Why it matters: It's a stark reversal from the policies of former President Trump, who sought to withdraw 12,000 troops from Germany after accusing the U.S. ally of "delinquent" payments to NATO.

Southwest heat wave intensifies, breaks records and worsens drought

A temperature "misery index" shows peak levels across the Southwest (orange and yellow), and the upper air flow shows how the jet stream is being pushed north, away from the heat dome parked over the Four Corners region. (Earth.nullschool.net)

A punishing and long-enduring heat wave is intensifying in parts of the West and Southwest, with heat warnings and advisories in effect across seven states Wednesday. The heat will not relent until late in the weekend.

Threat level: In the coming days, 40 million are likely to see temperatures reach or exceed 100 degrees.