Thu, 17 Oct 2019

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, will brief a House of Representatives committee on peace negotiations in a compromise after the panel subpoenaed him in frustration over his refusal to meet with its members.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee said that Khalilzad will hold a classified briefing for the entire panel early on September 19.

The closed session will be followed by a public hearing on the U.S. administration's Afghanistan policy with Alice Wells, the acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs. Karen Freeman, assistant to the administrator in the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs at the U.S. Agency for International Development, will also testify.

Democrat Eliot Engel, the committee's chairman, said in a statement on September 18 that 'while I would have preferred to hear from Ambassador Khalilzad in an open setting, I'm glad our members will have this long overdue opportunity to press for answers on the peace plan.'

The Democrat-led House committee said it had been frustrated over the Trump administration's failure to allow briefings by Khalilzad. Khalilzad has briefed members of the Senate, which is controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans, but he had declined three requests to appear before the House committee.

The panel had issued a subpoena on September 12, ordering Khalilzad to testify on September 19.

'It shouldn't have taken a subpoena to get the State Department to work with this committee and allow us to perform our oversight duties,' the congressman added.

Khalilzad has held nine rounds of talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, but has said little in public about the negotiations to end the 18-year war. The Taliban negotiators have refused to talk directly with the Afghan government.

Khalilzad reported that he had reached an agreement in principle with the Taliban in which Washington would pull out troops and the militants would promise to break with Al-Qaeda and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for terrorists.

However, the peace talks collapsed last week after President Donald Trump cited an attack that killed a U.S. soldier as his reason for calling off negotiations.

Trump proclaimed the negotiations 'dead' and he scrapped planned secret talks with the group at Camp David.

The Taliban on September 18 said 'doors are open' to resuming talks with the United States despite continuing violence ahead of a presidential election in Afghanistan.

The Taliban's chief negotiator, Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, made the statement after two recent attacks claimed by the militants killed at least 48 people in Afghanistan.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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