Published:  10:09 PM, 13 September 2019

Congress orders US Taliban negotiator to testify

Congress orders US Taliban negotiator to testify
The US envoy charged with negotiating
with the Taliban was ordered Thursday to testify by the Democratic-led House
of Representatives, which complained it had been kept in the dark on the now
called-off peace process.

Representative Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs
Committee, issued a subpoena to force Zalmay Khalilzad to appear on September
19.

The legally-binding order came days after President Donald Trump said
diplomacy with the Taliban was “dead” and offered the bombshell revelation
that he had arranged but canceled talks with the Islamist militants at the
Camp David presidential retreat.

In the committee’s first subpoena since the Democrats won back Congress,
Engel said the Trump administration had stalled for months on lawmakers’
requests to know more about the Taliban talks.

“More than 2,000 American troops have died in Afghanistan, and 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,”
Engel said in a statement.

“We need to hear directly from the administration’s point person on
Afghanistan to understand how this process went off the rails,” he said.

A subpoena from Congress compels an official to appear, although the Trump
administration has taken the unusual stance of defying subpoenas, setting up
legal battles.

The State Department did not immediately comment on whether Khalilzad
intended to comply as ordered.

Khalilzad held nine rounds of talks with the Taliban in Doha, saying little
as negotiations went on behind closed doors.

He later said he had reached an agreement in principle with the Taliban in
which the United States would pull out troops and the militants would promise
to break with Al-Qaeda.

Trump has been eager to end America’s longest war, launched 18 years ago
after the September 11 attacks.

But he accused the Taliban of bad faith for launching an attack in Kabul
that killed a US solider on the eve of the purported Kabul talks.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Wednesday that Khalilzad
remained on the job and had returned to Washington but that Taliban talks
were off in accordance with Trump’s declarations.


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