STATE DEPARTMENT - The Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Representative Eliot Engel, has subpoenaed the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, to testify at an open hearing of the committee Sept. 19.
The Democratic committee chair released a statement Thursday criticizing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying he "flatly refused" to make Khalilzad available to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, ignoring multiple requests for briefings and testimony on the Afghanistan peace plan.
"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," Engel wrote.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump called off peace negotiations with the Taliban that his special envoy Khalilzad had been involved with for almost a year. Trump tweeted that he had planned to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Taliban leaders at the presidential retreat at Camp David, in Maryland, but called it off after last week's deadly bombing in Kabul.
This was the first subpoena issued by the House Foreign Affairs Committee this Congress, which began Tuesday. Engel said his committee has been trying for months to get answers about the administration's Afghanistan peace efforts.
"We need to hear directly from the Administration's point person on Afghanistan to understand how this process went off the rails," he wrote.
Before the subpoena was issued Thursday, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus was asked at a briefing about Khalilzad's whereabouts. She said he is in Washington, D.C., likely at the State Department, and that he is still in his job as Special Representative for Afghanistan.
Asked about the status of U.S. talks with the Afghan government and the Taliban, Ortagus said, "I mean, I think the president has made clear that for now they're dead. That's the president's directive and I don't think that there's any reason for me to go beyond that."
Ortagus said Khalilzad had been working on negotiating a way forward in Afghanistan under the president's goal of achieving peace in Afghanistan, withdrawing U.S. troops, and protecting the U.S. homeland from any future terrorist attacks.
Khalilzad's yearlong peace mission has been Washington's most dedicated push for peace, focusing not just on the Taliban, Afghanistan's government and prominent Afghan power brokers, but also on its neighbors, who are often blamed for outright interference in Afghanistan.