General John Nicholson, who leads US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, speaks to reporters at Bagram Air Base, about 60km north of the Afghan capital Kabul. Photo: THOMAS WATKINS/AFP/Getty Images

The White House has ordered top U.S. diplomats to pave the way for direct negotiations with the Taliban, signaling a shift in strategy toward attempting to formally end the 17-year war in Afghanistan, reports the NYTimes.

Why it matters: The Taliban has repeatedly refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, a long-standing impediment to the U.S. strategy of an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” peace process. The reversal comes on the heels of reports that President Trump has been frustrated by the lack of progress on the ground.

Go deeper

Updated 45 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — Fauci says U.S. may not return to normal until 2022
  2. Politics: Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases
  4. Europe faces "stronger and deadlier" wave France imposes lockdown Germany to close bars and restaurants for a month.
  5. Sports: Boston Marathon delayed MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
54 mins ago - Health

Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates

Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Many of the states where coronavirus cases have recently skyrocketed are also seeing the highest death rates in the nation, a painful reminder that wherever the virus goes, death eventually follows.

Between the lines: Deaths usually lag behind cases by a few weeks. Given America's record-high case counts, it's reasonable to expect that death rates across the country will continue to rise in tandem.

Amy Harder, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Science

Pandemic scrambles Americans' acceptance of science

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic is throwing a wrench into Americans' understanding of science, which has big implications for climate change.

Driving the news: Recent focus groups in battleground states suggest some voters are more skeptical of scientists in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, while surveys reveal the persistence of a deep partisan divide.