Called-off Afghan peace process: Congress orders US Taliban negotiator Khalilzad to testify

WASHINGTON, Sept 14 (NNN-AGENCIES) — The US envoy charged with negotiating with the Taliban was ordered 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 Sept
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 cancelled 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 Sept 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.

Meanwhile, the Taliban have been unapologetic about their relentless attacks that have killed scores of civilians — and which have been blamed for the talks’ collapse.

Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman in Doha, argued that the U.S. has also continued its military campaign in parallel to the peace talks, adding that “there was no cease-fire and the agreement was not signed.”

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. — NNN-AGENCIES