President Donald Trump’s first veto was more than a milestone. It signals a new era of ever perilous relations between the executive and legislative branches of government.
Trump’s agenda was stymied even before his party lost unified control of Washington at the start of the year, and he has grown increasingly frustrated by his dealings with Congress, believing little of substance will get done by the end of his first term and feeling just as pessimistic about the second, according to White House aides, campaign staffers and outside allies.
Republicans in Congress are demonstrating new willingness to part ways with the president. On the Senate vote Thursday rejecting the president’s national emergency declaration to get border wall funding, 12 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against Trump.
The 59-41 vote against Trump’s declaration was just the latest blow as tensions flare on multiple fronts.
Trump tweeted one word after the vote: “VETO!” And he eagerly flexed that muscle on Friday for the first time, hoping to demonstrate resolve on fulfilling his 2016 campaign pledge.
Proposed deals fall flat
GOP senators had repeatedly agitated for compromise deals that would give them political cover to support Trump despite their concerns that he was improperly circumventing Congress. But the president was never persuaded by any of the proposals, said a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A last-ditch trip to the White House by a group of senators Wednesday night only irritated Trump, who felt they were offering little in the way of new solutions.
As the vote neared, Trump repeatedly made clear that it was about party fealty and border security and suggested that voting against him could be perilous.
“It’s going to be a great election issue,” he predicted.
Looking past the veto, Trump’s plans for future collaboration with Congress appear limited. With the exception of pushing for approval of his trade deal with Mexico and Canada, the president and his allies see little benefit in investing more political capital on Capitol Hill. Trump ran against Washington in 2016, and he is fully expected to do so again.
Trump once declared that “I alone can fix it.” But that was before getting hamstrung in Washington, and he is now exploring opportunities to pursue executive action to work around lawmakers, as he did with his emergency declaration on the border wall. He is directing aides to find other areas where he can act — or at least be perceived as acting — without Congress, including infrastructure and drug prices.
‘The campaign begins’
Trump made his intentions clear recently as he assessed that Democrats would rather investigate him than cooperate on policy: “Basically, they’ve started the campaign. So the campaign begins.”
His dealings with Congress were inconsistent even when Republicans controlled both chambers, and he has made few overtures to Democrats since they won control of the House.
Trump initially predicted he could work across the aisle, but that sentiment cooled after the bitter government shutdown fight and in the face of mounting investigations. His frustrations are evidence of the difficulty that the Washington neophyte and former business executive has had with the process of lawmaking, and the challenges yet to come.
The White House argues there are still opportunities for collaboration, listing ratification of the Canada-Mexico trade pact as a priority. But passage is anything but assured.
Trump’s ire has been directed at both parties for some time, aides said. He was upset with the Republicans’ performance during the recent congressional hearing featuring his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, telling allies that he was not impressed with their questioning.
Trump’s budget proposal this past week was viewed as a shot at Democrats, with its proposals to increase money for the border wall and cut to social safety net programs. The plan, which had little in the way of new or bipartisan ideas, was declared dead on arrival by Democratic House leaders.
Further stoking tensions, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., invited NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to address an upcoming joint meeting of Congress, in what was widely seen as a rebuke of Trump’s criticism of the trans-Atlantic alliance. The invitation was backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and followed votes earlier this year in which Republicans voiced opposition to Trump’s plans to draw down U.S. troops in Syria and Afghanistan.
Presidential complaints about Congress — and efforts to find a workaround — are nothing new.
President Barack Obama in 2014 resorted to what became known as his “pen and phone” strategy.
“I’ve got a pen to take executive actions where Congress won’t, and I’ve got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission,” he said.
Obama’s strategy yielded years of executive orders and regulatory action, but many proved ephemeral when Trump took office and started unwinding them.
Європейська комісія вважає, що компанія Google не вживає жодних дій у боротьбі з дезінформацією напередодні виборів до Європейського парламенту, запланованих на травень.
У листі американському інтернет-гігантові від 11 березня, підписаному чотирма європейськими комісарами йдеться, що якість інформації, наданої Європейською комісією, «ясно показує, що існує термінова необхідність в подальших діях».
Єврокомісія повідомляє, що «в останньому звіті від Google є мало або взагалі немає інформації про реальні результати, досягнуті завдяки реалізації відповідних заходів і відсутні критерії, що дозволяють відслідковувати і вимірювати прогрес». Також Єврокомісія вважає, що дані в звітах Google «не завжди видаються актуальними».
Лист від 11 березня, з яким мало можливість ознайомитись Радіо Вільна Європа/Радіо Свобода (RFE/RL) підписаний комісаром з питань безпеки Юліаном Кінгом, комісаром з цифрової економіки Марією Габріель, комісаром з єдиного цифрового ринку Андрусом Ансіпом та комісаром з питань юстиції Вірою Журовою, запрошує Google на круглий стіл в Брюсселі 19 березня, щоб «обговорити подальші кроки з покращення звітності».
«Дата європейських виборів стрімко наближається, і політична кампанія в державах-членах ЄС ось-ось розпочнеться. Тому ми закликаємо Google надати в наступному звіті повні і відповідні показники ефективності», – йдеться в листі.
У жовтні компанія Google, а також Twitter і Facebook підписали кодекс правил, встановлених Брюсселем для боротьби з дезінформацією в Інтернеті напередодні виборів 23-26 травня, після численних повідомлень про втручання до і під час виборів в державах-членах ЄС і в інших країнах.
Три веб-гіганти зобов’язалися надавати Європейській комісії щомісячні звіти з січня до травня 2019 року про те, як вони контролюють розміщення реклами, застосовувати інструменти прозорості для політичної та тематичної реклами та впроваджувати на практиці політику, «покликану зміцнити цілісність їхніх послуг, в тому числі за рахунок закриття підроблених облікових записів і виявлення автоматичних ботів».
Колишній міністр Росії у справах друку, телерадіомовлення і засобів масових комунікацій Михайло Лесін, який загинув у Вашингтоні в 2015 році, міг отримати перелом шиї трохи нижче від лінії щелепи «у момент смерті або незадовго до неї». Про це йдеться в звіті, наданому Радіо Свобода / Радіо Вільна Європа (RFE/RL) міською владою Вашингтона. Документ, який скаладається зі 149 сторінок, підготовлений Офісом головного судового медика.
Звіт наданий згідно з рішенням суду, який 14 лютого визнав право Радіо Свобода отримати дані про смерть Лесіна, відповідно до американського закону про свободу доступу до інформації.
За офіційною версією, смерть настала від удару тупим предметом, що могло бути результатом падіння. На думку деяких коментаторів, це не виключає версії вбивства, є підстави припускати, що Лесін хотів поділитися важливою інформацією з Міністерством юстиції США.
У звіді йдеться:
Під'язикова кістка Лесіна (кістка, що має форму підкови і розташована під м'язом язика) була зламана. Також була зламана шия нижче від щелепи, ця травма могла бути отримана в момент смерті або перед нею. При цьому в іншому місці в документі стверджується, що шия могла бути зламана під час розтину тіла. На початку 2016 року (Лесін помер в листопаді 2015-го) ФБР розглядало можливість початку розслідування загибелі колишнього міністра: агенти Федерального бюро взяли участь у допиті свідків і вивченні записів відеокамер готелю, де він помер. Син Лесіна Антон, що живе в Беверлі-Хіллз, розповів, що його батько постійно напивався під час ділових поїздок. Один із співробітників Офісу головного судового медика Вашингтона давав свідчення Великому журі з кримінальних справ, відповідаючи на запитання про загибель чиновника. Відразу після смерті Лесіна детективу, який розслідував справу, дзвонив якийсь «друг» покійного. Він питав, де знаходиться тіло. Ім'я того, хто телефонував, з'ясувати не вдалося.
У листопаді 2015 року тіло Лесіна виявили в номері вашингтонського готелю.
У жовтні 2016 року влада США закрила розслідування у справі про смерть колишнього міністра Росії, визнавши її нещасним випадком.
Читайте також: Тупий предмет: таємниця загибелі Лесіна
Тоді поліція і прокуратура повідомили: у висновку про смерть Лесіна мовиться, що вранці 4 листопада 2015 року він прийшов до вашингтонського готелю після кількох днів постійного вживання алкоголю. У номері готелю він впав і вдарився головою. Слідчі встановили, що у номері Михайло Лесін був один.
Смерть російського чиновника, давнього близького соратника президента Володимира Путіна, викликала припущення, що Лесін був убитий після того, як запропонував свою допомогу ФБР США.
Large plumes of smoke rose above Paris’ landmark Champs-Elysees avenue as French yellow vest protesters set fires, smashed up luxury stores and clashed with police Saturday in a 18th straight weekend of demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron.
Police tried to contain the demonstrators with tear gas and water cannons. Fire trucks rushed to extinguish two burning newspaper kiosks that were set ablaze, sending black smoke high into the sky.
As demonstrators targeted symbols of the luxury industry, shops including brands Hugo Boss and Lacoste were smashed up and pillaged, and mannequins thrown out of the broken windows. A posh eatery called Fouquet’s, which is associated with politicians and celebrities, was vandalized and set on fire. A vehicle burned outside luxury boutique Kenzo, one of many blazes on and around the Champs-Elysees.
The violence started when protesters threw smoke bombs and other objects at officers along the famed avenue — scene of repeated past rioting — and started pounding on the windows of a police van. Riot police then retreated, with protesters kicking the side of the large truck.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said there were 7,000-8,000 demonstrators in Paris on Saturday of which 1,500 were “ultraviolent ones that are there to smash things up.”
Pushing a hard line, Castaner ordered police to retaliate against these “inadmissible” acts, condemning those who “call for violence and are here to ferment chaos in Paris.”
After dwindling numbers in recent weekends, protesters are hoping their latest day of action can breathe new life into their movement against a president seen as favoring the elite.
Paris police told The Associated Press that 64 people were arrested by early afternoon. Bracing for a potential uptick in protester numbers and violence, the French capital deployed more police Saturday than in previous weekends. Police closed down several streets and fanned out around the Right Bank.
Yellow vest groups representing teachers, unemployed people and labor unions were among those that organized dozens of rallies and marches Saturday in the capital and around France.
The actions mark the end of a two-month national debate that Macron organized to respond to protesters’ concerns.
Protesters dismiss the debate as empty words and a campaign ploy by Macron for European Parliament elections in May. They are angry over high taxes and Macron policies seen as coddling the business world.
“Those who participated in this great debate are mostly retirees and upper middle class, meaning Macron’s electorate, even though we understood this great national debate was supposed to respond to the yellow vest crisis,” lawyer and protester Francois Boulo told Europe-1 radio.
In their online appeal for Saturday’s protests, organizers said they wanted the day to serve as an “ultimatum” to “the government and the powerful.”
Overwhelmed by tourists Venice will soon start to charge an entrance fee. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro says the money raised will help pay for the upkeep of the historic lagoon city.
Venice routinely has more tourists than permanently declared residents. Rising housing costs and the use of properties for tourist accommodation have driven the population down by two thirds since the middle of the 20th century.
As a result, Venice for years has been struggling with numerous woes, including high tides that regularly flood the city’s iconic Saint Mark’s Square, and growing numbers of tourists.
To deal with the endless flows of visitors no solutions at this moment are final but, starting later this year, all tourists will be paying a fee that will go towards the upkeep, cleaning and services that are needed for the city to survive. City administrators say the maintenance costs of Venice are extremely high compared to other cities.
Visitors who stay in hotels for the night are already paying a tax which is added to their room rate. But later this year day-trippers or tourists who visit Venice for just for a few hours will also be subject to a fee. Mayor Brugnaro this week outlined the plan to the foreign press gathered in Rome.
He said they want to defend the city for current and future residents and visitors because Venice is a marvel of the world and only in this way will they be able to safeguard it”.
Brugnaro said an experimental entrance fee of about $3 will be charged to those who visit Venice this year but said no date had yet been set as to when this charge would start. The fee, the mayor said, would be collected by transport companies bringing the visitors to the city on planes, trains, buses and cruise boats. Cameras, he said, would also be installed in certain parts of Venice for those arriving for the day in private cars. He made clear there would be stiff fines for those who do not comply with the new charge.
Some, like students and workers, would be exempt from paying the fee, as would those who were born and reside in Venice and children under the age of 6.
From January 1st, 2020, the entrance fee will be set to about $7 but will be variable and range from $3 to $11, depending how busy the city is.
Some in Venice say they do not believe the entrance fee plan will work. Lawyer Roberta Pierabon said it will be impossible to implement.
She said visitors arrive from all sides. It’s impossible to block Venice because Venice is an island and you reach it on water. She does not believe the flow of arrivals can be controlled and added that she disapproved of the plan.
Other Venetians favor the idea, saying that it will help control the tourism so that it is not so “aggressive.” Michele Tessari, who, often works with tourists on lagoon transport, said Venetians would like a more elite kind of tourism, not so much “eat-and-run” tourism and the entrance fee will help with this. He said locals want to avoid seeing tourists eating their sandwiches sitting on the bridges of Venice like tramps.”
Venetians love their city and know it will never stop attracting visitors. Venice is so special, they say, that it belongs to the whole of humanity, and everyone should have the opportunity to visit this incredible city at least once in their lifetime.
A federal appeals court told Mississippi lawmakers to redraw a state Senate district where a judge found that black residents’ voting power had been diluted.
A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the order Friday, denying a request by state officials to delay the impact of a ruling that U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves issued last month.
Reeves said Senate District 22 should be redrawn because it fails to give African-American voters an “equal opportunity” to elect a candidate of their choice. The appeals court wrote that a majority of members on its three-judge panel found “there is not a strong likelihood” that state officials ultimately would persuade them to overturn Reeves’ ruling.
State sued in July
Three black residents sued the state in July, saying the composition of the district violates the Voting Rights Act. It stretches through parts of six counties, including poor and mostly black parts of the Delta into the affluent and mostly white Jackson suburbs of Madison County. It has a 51 percent black voting-age population and a white senator, Republican Buck Clarke of Hollandale, who was first elected in 2003 under a somewhat different configuration of the district. Clarke is not seeking re-election this year because he’s running for state treasurer.
“The Court of Appeals quite properly confirmed Judge Reeves’ ruling that lines of District 22 should be changed for this year’s election. That configuration added wealthy majority-white suburbs in Madison County to an otherwise largely African-American rural district in the Delta to dilute African-American voting strength in violation of the Voting Rights Act,” Rob McDuff, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said in a statement Friday.
McDuff, Mississippi Center for Justice and the Washington-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law were among those representing African-Americans who brought the lawsuit, including a former state lawmaker who lost to Clarke in 2015.
An attorney for the state could not immediately be reached after business hours Friday.
Deadline to draw districts April 3
Mississippi has 52 state Senate districts, and all of the state’s legislative seats are up for election this year. The current district lines were set in 2012 and have been used since the 2015 legislative elections.
Both Reeves and the appeals court judges acknowledged that redrawing District 22 will require at least one nearby Senate district to be redrawn, as well.
The appeals court set an April 3 deadline for lawmakers to draw the new districts. Candidates’ qualifying deadline for all legislative races was March 1, but the appeals court said the qualifying deadline in the newly drawn districts will be April 12.
U.S. President Donald Trump has issued the first veto of his presidency, overriding a congressional measure and protecting his national security declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution and I have the duty to veto it,” Trump said Friday in the Oval Office.
Surrounded by law enforcement officials as well as parents of children killed by people who were illegally in the United States, Trump called the congressional action “dangerous” and “reckless.”
On Thursday, Congress formally rejected Trump’s national emergency declaration to fund border wall construction, as the Senate voted 59 to 41 to disapprove the executive action.
A dozen Republicans joined with Senate Democrats to back the resolution.
The House had passed the measure weeks earlier, largely along party lines.
Back to Congress
Trump’s veto sends the issue back to Congress, where it is unlikely that there will be enough support to override the veto. Two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate are needed to overcome a presidential veto.
Earlier this year, a politically divided Congress provided limited funds to erect new fencing along small sections of the U.S.-Mexico border, an outlay Trump deemed inadequate.
The president then declared a national emergency, allowing him to redirect federal funds for the wall, which the White House said would come from mostly military accounts.
The president has argued the situation at the border is a crisis that warrants such an emergency declaration, and has said the United States is facing an invasion of people trying to enter the country illegally.
Democrats have largely opposed building a wall on the southern border.
Republicans who voted against Trump’s national security declaration said that while they supported increasing security on the southern border, they did not support Trump’s attempt to bypass Congress.
Congress has not funded Trump’s border wall requests during the more than two years he has been in office, including during the first two years when Republicans were in control of both houses of Congress.
Міністерство закордонних справ України надіслало Росії ноту протесту в зв’язку з приїздом делегації російської Державної думи на чолі з її головою В’ячеславом Володіним, а також деякими членами російського уряду в анексований Крим.
«Україна розглядає цей та інші подібні «візити» керівництва Російської Федерації як подальші кроки з легітимізації спроби незаконної анексії Автономної Республіки Крим та міста Севастополь, а зроблені російськими посадовцями заяви – цинічними та відверто провокаційними. Саме руйнівна та безвідповідальна політика російської окупаційної влади протягом п’яти років окупації призвела до істотного загострення економічних, соціальних, гуманітарних і екологічних проблем на півострові», – ідеться в повідомленні.
У Сімферополі 15 березня відбулися «офіційні заходи», присвячені п’ятиріччю російської анексії Криму.
У заходах взяли участь голова російського уряду Криму Сергій Аксьонов, спікер російського парламенту Криму Володимир Константинов, депутат Держдуми Росії Наталія Поклонська, спікер російської Держдуми В’ячеслав Володін та інші російські депутати.
На території Криму і Севастополя 16 березня 2014 року відбувся невизнаний світом «референдум» про статус півострова, за результатами якого Росія включила Крим до свого складу. Ні Україна, ні Європейський союз, ні США не визнали результати голосування на «референдумі». Президент Росії Володимир Путін 18 березня оголосив про «приєднання» Криму до Росії.
Міжнародні організації визнали окупацію і анексію Криму незаконними і засудили дії Росії. Країни Заходу запровадили економічні санкції. Росія заперечує анексію півострова і називає це «відновленням історичної справедливості». Верховна Рада України офіційно оголосила датою початку тимчасової окупації Криму і Севастополя Росією 20 лютого 2014 року.
As British politicians wrestle with Brexit, Britain’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community — like others around the world — is grappling with a potential split of its own.
Can the coalition of allies, which traces its roots back to the early days of gay liberation in the 1960s, survive in its current form?
Caught in the crossfire between trans activists and feminists over the nature of what it is to be a woman, calls for a break-up of the longstanding LGBT+ alliance back to its constituent elements are starting to emerge.
At the heart of the increasingly toxic debate is whether trans rights are compatible with those of other women, particularly in terms of access to single-sex spaces, such as rape crisis centers or women’s refuges.
On one side, trans campaigners say that transgender women are women and deserve equal access. On the other, some feminists and lesbians disagree, making the distinction between natal and trans women.
The result has been a progressively poisonous row that threatens to tear the LGBT+ community apart.
Last year, a group called Get the L Out staged a protest against what they saw as “lesbian erasure” — or lesbians being written out of history — at the beginning of London’s annual Pride march.
“The only way to fight lesbian erasure within ‘LGBT+’ groups is to … create an autonomous and strong lesbian community and build alliances with all feminists willing to fight against male domination,” a spokeswoman said in an email.
Yet, while the debate has raged with particular ferocity in Britain, other countries have also seen tempers flare.
In New Zealand, a lesbian group said on Wednesday that it had been banned from Wellington Pride on Saturday for “not being inclusive enough” of trans people.
On Twitter, Charlie Montague, spokeswoman for the Lesbian Rights Alliance Aotearoa, said the group would now organize “a lesbian-only event of our own.”
Wellington Pride has not replied to a request for comment.
And in the United States, lesbian activist Julia Beck was last year voted off the Baltimore city LGBTQ commission after clashes with fellow commissioners over trans issues.
Community must remain together
At an event organized by campaign group LBQWomen in the Victorian Gothic splendor of one of the British parliament’s grand state rooms, Baroness Barker, LGBT spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrat party in the House of Lords, is adamant.
The community must remain together, she told Reuters.
“It matters, because we [LGBT+ people] are all outsiders and [on our own] we can be picked off by the forces that are against us,” Barker said.
However, she added a caveat.
“I stand alongside my gay brothers, as I always have done, but there comes a time when lesbians and bisexual women have to be able to come to the fore,” she said, referring to one of the aims of the LBQWomen event.
But for many, the trans debate is at the heart of the matter.
The tension partly stems from ignorance on the part of the LGB community about the issues faced by trans people, said Michelle Ross, founder of cliniQ, which provides sexual health services to the trans community and others.
“There’s a lack of awareness and there always has been in the LGB community,” she said. “Things have changed for the better … but there is some kickback around not seeing trans people as part of the LGBTQI community.”
In recent months, the debate has spilled out of social media and onto the letters pages of Britain’s national newspapers, drawing in characters as disparate as Star Trek actor George Takei and former British cabinet minister Lord Mandelson.
In October, a group of high-powered campaigners took aim at Britain’s leading LGBT+ charity, Stonewall, which they saw as stifling debate over the issue.
Last month, chief executive Ruth Hunt said she would step down in August after a tenure marked by debates that she said have “not always been a comfortable conversation” as transgender rights took greater prominence.
“We will only make progress if we stand together,” said Paul Twocock, Stonewall’s executive director of campaigns and strategy.
“We are a diverse community made up of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, who come from different faiths, who live in different neighborhoods and do different jobs.
“But we are united in our desire to create a world where we can be free to be ourselves.”
The debate has polarized society at large, and pitted former allies within the LGBT+ movement against one another, said singer and actor Mzz Kimberley.
“Unfortunately, some parts of the LGBT+ community are not coming together,” she told Reuters.
“There are many different communities under the LGBT+ umbrella, but you also have [the] radical feminist community who are very against the trans community. You even have parts of the gay community who are against the trans community.
“It’s quite sad as we fought so hard to establish where we are at the moment and there are many who are starting to fight with each other.”
Gay men support trans colleagues
On Thursday, more than 70 prominent gay men, including YouTube star Riyadh Khalaf and Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, backed an open letter from Britain’s equalities tsar Anthony Watson to rally together and support the trans community.
“One of the things I find flabbergasting is that we wouldn’t enjoy the rights we have today without trans activists,” Watson told Reuters, citing the involvement of campaigners at the start of gay liberation in the late 1960s.
“For gay men to sit silent on the sidelines and say it is not our battle is tremendously arrogant.
“And guess what?” Watson added. “[The bigots] are coming for our rights next.”
Tensions at play
Sport has become the latest frontline.
Tennis star Martina Navratilova and British Olympic medalist swimmer Sharron Davies both spoke out recently in support of more research into what they saw as competitive advantages for trans women.
Others have countered that the testosterone-blocking effects of hormone therapy undergone during transition would negate any advantage.
For many, the debate is reminiscent of how gay men and lesbians were portrayed by the media in the 1970s and ’80s when headlines warned of a “gay plague” at the advent of HIV/AIDS and similar concerns were raised about bathrooms and changing rooms.
“Rights can easily slip backwards,” said Watson.
But the question many are now asking is what is next for the LGBT+ community? Calls for a break-up may remain on the fringes, but concerns for its future are growing.
For the Lib Dems’ Barker, the current tensions are signs that the 50-year-old gay and trans community needs to address concerns from both sides.
“We should start to create spaces in which — safely — the LGBT+ community can have arguments and differences,” she said.
“And we need to do it so we’re not giving ground to those who are doing us down.
“We’re a community that is 50 years old and we are maturing. We should be big enough to do this.”
President Donald Trump and his national security team had an hourlong, classified meeting on Afghanistan on Friday, a day after a top Afghan official openly complained that the Trump administration was keeping his government in the dark about its negotiations with the Taliban.
The meeting at the Pentagon included Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, among others. The session was a classified briefing about Afghanistan, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the subject of the private briefing.
The Pentagon has been developing plans to withdraw up to half of the 14,000 troops still in Afghanistan. Patrick Shanahan, acting secretary of defense, said he has no orders to reduce the U.S. troop presence, although officials say that is at the top of the Taliban’s list of demands in exploratory peace negotiations.
U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, the administration’s main negotiator with the Taliban, recently concluded a 13-day session with leaders of the insurgent group to try to find a way to end the 17-year war.
Khalilzad said the two sides reached two “draft agreements” covering the withdrawal of U.S. troops and guarantees that Afghanistan would not revert to a haven for terrorists. But he was unable to persuade the Taliban to launch talks with the Afghan government.
The two sides seem to be in agreement about the withdrawal of American forces, but divided over the timeline and whether a residual force would remain.
Taliban officials have told The Associated Press that the insurgents want a full withdrawal within three to five months, but that U.S. officials say it will take 18 months to two years. The Americans are likely to insist on a residual U.S. force to guard the American Embassy and other diplomatic facilities, and may press for a counterterrorism force as well.
Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib visited Washington on Thursday to publicly complain that the Trump administration has alienated the Afghan government, legitimized the militant network and is crafting a deal that will never lead to peace. His blunt remarks prompted a scolding from State Department officials.
Mohib, the former Afghan ambassador to the United States, said talks about withdrawing troops should be conducted with the Afghan government, which has a bilateral security agreement with the U.S. He also suggested that the negotiations conducted by Khalilzad, a veteran American diplomat who was born in Afghanistan, are clouded by Khalilzad’s political ambitions to lead his native country.