U.S. House subpoenas envoy to U.S.-Taliban dialogue

Frustrated by the absence of a clearly communicated strategy on Afghanistan and a lack of responsiveness to invitations issued by it, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee has subpoenaed the U.S. envoy to the U.S.-Taliban negotiations, Zalmay Khalilzad, to testify before it on Thursday.

“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,” HFAC Chairman Eliot Engel said via a statement.

The Committee, which is currently controlled by Democrats, has responsibilities for legislation and oversight related to U.S. Foreign policy and the State Department, and this is the first subpoena for the Committee in the current Congress.

It had invited Mr. Khalilzad to testify before it in February, April as well as earlier this month, when Mr. Engel wrote to Mr. Khalilzad, saying, “I do not consider your testimony at this hearing optional.” In March, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to confirm that he would compel Mr. Khalilzad to testify before the Committee, adding that while he was happy to share the State Department’s strategy on Afghanistan, details of negotiations had to stay within “ a very small circle”.

“For months, we haven’t been able to get answers on the Afghanistan peace plan, and now the President is saying the plan is dead. We need to hear directly from the Administration’s point person on Afghanistan to understand how this process went off the rails,” Mr Engel said, adding that he expected to see Mr. Khalilzad in the hearing room.

On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump said that talks with the Taliban were “dead”. The U.S. was in the final stages of a deal to withdraw troops from Afghanistan – 14,000 in 16 months, with 5,400 troops leaving in 135 days. Mr. Trump had announced on Twitter on September 7 that he had called off a secret meeting with the Taliban at Camp David after the group had claimed responsibility for an attack that killed 12 people, including one American soldier.

The Hindu has reached out to the State Department for comment.


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