Khalilzad briefs congressmen over Afghan peace process

The United States Special Afghanistan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Thursday briefed members of the US House Foreign Relations Committee behind closed doors on the failure of the US-Taliban talks a day after the panel reached a deal for the testimony with the State Department.

According to AlJazeera, the committee issued a subpoena on September 12, ordering Khalilzad to testify on September 19. Under an agreement reached with the State Department on Wednesday, the closed-door session will be followed by a public hearing with acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells.

“In the last few weeks, we’ve seen the Afghan reconciliation process go off the rails in spectacular fashion,” Representative Eliot Engel, the Democrat chairman of the committee, said at a public hearing after Khalilzad’s appearance.

“We’ve learned that the president up-ended the deal and we have learned that the peace deal evidently is dead,” Engel said. Other members of the committee said they could not discuss the substance of their meeting with Khalilzad.

Wells later told the committee that the Trump administration remained committed to the long-term stability of Afghanistan despite cuts in aid. “We are committed to the long-term development of Afghanistan but not over-committed to the point where we are assuming unreasonable or even a counterproductive level of involvement,” she said during a public hearing on the US Afghan policy.

Wells said US officials believed they had made significant progress in informal talks with the Taliban in Qatar in July by including Afghan government representatives and women. The US had sought to work with China and Russia on Afghanistan, she added.

“We had broken new ground in this last round of negotiations that took place,” Wells said, holding out a prospect the talks could be renewed. “We would like to see the Taliban take actions that would allow us to return to negotiations,” she said.

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