U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is set to appear Thursday before a House of Representatives committee to answer questions about now-stalled peace talks with the Taliban and the Trump administration’s plans now that the president has called off the negotiations.
Congressman Eliot Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had issued a subpoena calling for Khalilzad to testify, and said in a statement Wednesday that after days of negotiations with the State Department, the envoy would go before lawmakers for a classified briefing.
“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,” Engel said.
Trump surprised many earlier this month when he announced he was calling off a previously secret plan to have Taliban officials and Afghanistan’s president come to the Camp David presidential retreat near Washington for talks. He said he canceled the event and the peace negotiations altogether after continued Taliban attacks in Kabul, including one that killed a U.S. soldier.
Khalilzad held nine rounds of negotiations with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, and just before Trump scuttled the process had announced an “agreement in principle” with the Taliban. That plan called for the United States to withdraw 5,000 of its 14,000 troops from Afghanistan, and for the Taliban to renounce ties with al-Qaida and guarantee Afghanistan would not be used for terror attacks against the United States.
A U.S.-Taliban agreement was meant to lead to direct peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban to seek an end to the war that began in 2001.