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Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images

Zalmay Khalilzad stepped down as special envoy for Afghanistan peace talks on Monday, two months after the Taliban seized control of Kabul in a disastrous conclusion to the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

Why it matters: Khalilzad was the architect of the Trump administration's 2019 peace deal with the Taliban, which the head of U.S. Central Command called "the primary accelerant to lowering morale and general efficiency of the Afghan military."

  • The agreement, which was negotiated without the input of the Afghan government, paved the way for a full U.S. withdrawal by May 1 in exchange for the Taliban agreeing not to target American troops.
  • President Biden pushed the withdrawal deadline back to August, but has frequently claimed the deal tied his hands because the Taliban would have resumed attacks on U.S. personnel if he waited any longer.

What's next: Khalilzad will be replaced as special representative for Afghanistan by Thomas West, who was previously his deputy. He will play a key role as the U.S. negotiates with the Taliban on unfreezing Afghan assets and sending desperately needed humanitarian aid.

Go deeper

Jan 11, 2022 - World

Aid group reports major increase in Afghanistan child malnourishment

Health workers check children for signs of malnourishment at a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Herat. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty

Health care workers in the Afghan cities of Khost and Herat recorded major increases of severe acute malnutrition among children — 30-fold and 2-fold respectively — between November and December of 2021, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

State of play: Most foreign aid to Afghanistan has stopped flowing since the Taliban took power in August, sanctions are further hampering the economy, and the U.S. has frozen around $8 billion in Afghan Central Bank assets. That's led to a major cash shortage that comes with winter setting in and food prices rising, the IRC reports.

2 hours ago - World

U.S: Nord Stream 2 "will not move forward" if Russia invades Ukraine

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price during a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. will make sure the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany won't go ahead if Russian troops invade Ukraine, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told NPR on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Germany's ambassador to the U.S. appeared to support Price's strong rhetoric on the strategically significant pipeline that would circumvent Ukrainian transit infrastructure and deliver Russian gas directly to Germany, eliminating one of the last deterrents Ukraine has against an invasion, per Axios' Zachary Basu.

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.