One of the biggest problems with American democracy is that it’s not democratic.
Two of the last five presidents were elected despite losing the popular vote, more than half the Senate is elected by roughly 18 percent of the population, and voting districts are increasingly gerrymandered in ways that disenfranchise the people who live there.
Our process for choosing the president, the Electoral College, is probably the strangest and most explicitly anti-democratic feature of the American political system. It was conceived in part as a firewall against majority will in case the mob ever elected someone grotesquely unqualified for the office. (It, uh, didn’t work.)
But the history is more complicated than that. Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional scholar at Yale, has argued that the Electoral College was a concession to the slave states at the time of the founding. Another popular theory is that the Electoral College was designed to prevent presidential candidates from ignoring the smaller, less populated states.
Whatever the case, there’s no denying that the Electoral College is anti-democratic. According to Democratic data scientist David Shor, “The Electoral College bias is now such that realistically [Democrats] have to win by 3.5 to 4 percent in order to win presidential elections.” So why is it still around? What purpose does it serve today? And more importantly, can we get rid of it?
Jesse Wegman, an editorial board member at the New York Times, has made a definitive case against the Electoral College in his book Let the People Pick the President. Among other things, Wegman argues that the Electoral College creates a false picture of a country reduced to red and blue states when, in fact, the United States is a purple country — and Americans pay a huge price for upholding a system that doesn’t represent that diversity.
I spoke to Wegman about the shoddy origins of the Electoral College and why he thinks we have to eliminate it back in July, but the conversation is still relevant. Joe Biden has opened up a wide lead over Donald Trump in the national polls, but the race is by no means over, thanks to the Electoral College. If Trump loses the popular vote by a few million votes and somehow manages to win the election by securing 270 electoral votes, discontent over this antidemocratic relic may well boil over.
A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.
You explain in the book how slipshod and hurried the process of conceiving the Electoral College was. No one really believed in it all that much and it was cobbled together at the last minute and only adopted because every other idea failed to win enough support. Were there any justifiable reasons for creating it in the first place?
You can certainly look at things from the framers’ perspective and say it’s understandable that they were concerned about how to elect the president. It had never been done before. They were building this out of whole cloth and the concerns that they had were real.
One of the major concerns was that many of the delegates didn’t want Congress involved in electing the president since they had just created a system built on a separation of powers. Another concern was that citizens would never be able to make an informed decision about national candidates because they just wouldn’t have the information they needed, given the nature of communications technology back then.
What would you say was the foremost reason they created the Electoral College?
I don’t think there was a foremost purpose. As you said, they were scrambling to get this thing done and they debated it endlessly for something like 21 days. And none of the other proposals, like a national popular vote, had enough support to get into the Constitution.
But I’d say the driving force was to get the Constitution finished and sent out for ratification. Beyond that, the main issues were keeping the election of the president out of Congress’s hands and ensuring the electors who made up the Electoral College knew who the candidates were and could make wise decisions.
And then of course you had the immovable obstacle of slavery and ensuring that the slave-holding states didn’t unravel the whole process. James Madison himself said during the middle of the convention that “the popular vote is the fittest way to elect a president,” but that the South wouldn’t go for it. And he says this more than once. So it’s clear that the Founders knew the slave states had a ton of leverage.
We know the process of passing it was flawed. We know it was the product of brutal compromises. But has the Electoral College ever operated the way it was intended to operate?
No — with the possible exception of the first two elections when George Washington was on the ticket. But after that, we basically had electors who were not operating in what the framers thought of as the best interests of the country. The electors were just party hacks. That was clear by 1796, and it’s just as clear today. The electors have never been these disinterested, neutral, wise men the founders imagined.
Why have all the attempts to reform or abolish the Electoral College failed?
I think that the most common reason is because one or both political parties have seen themselves as benefiting from it in some way. So it’s almost always a short-term political calculus that keeps the college alive. It’s very rare that it’s about anything relating to democratic principles or some notion of what’s fair or just. No one thinks the Electoral College was a brilliant constitutional invention, but it’s been preserved over the years for political reasons.
Okay, but the dynamics have changed, right? Now the Electoral College benefits the Republican Party almost exclusively.
You’re right that the college has typically leaned toward one party or the other — that was true in 2016 and almost certainly true for 2020. But I’d also say that it’s harder than we think to say that definitively in advance of an election.
Republicans won the 2004 election, but the Electoral College actually gave the Democrats a boost. If 60,000 votes went the other way in Ohio, George W. Bush would have won the national popular vote by 3 million votes, but John Kerry would’ve been elected. So the advantages aren’t so fixed.
But yes, I concede the point you’re making: Right now, the Electoral College benefits Republicans pretty clearly, and a split election is much, much more likely to go the Republican candidate.
A lot of people who hear these sorts of objections to the Electoral College think it’s just sour grapes from liberals who don’t like the current outcome of the system. How do you respond to that?
I’m as upset as anybody who experienced their preferred candidate winning more votes and not being elected. I think it violates our basic sense of what majority rule means. All I would say to those people is, look at Trump’s tweet in 2012 arguing that the Electoral College is a disaster for democracy. The circumstances of that tweet is that on Election Night 2012, early exit polling was suggesting that Mitt Romney might win the popular vote and lose the Electoral College to Obama. So the mere possibility that that could happen triggered Trump’s tweet, and all I’ll say is that I sympathize.
And it’s actually happened twice in the last 20 years for Democrats —
Right! And I’ll bet any amount of money that the moment it happened in the other direction, you would see exactly the same reaction from the other side, and that’s because everybody in their gut feels the unfairness of a system that does not put the person with the most votes in the White House.
The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
What would you say is the biggest myth or misconception about the Electoral College?
This idea that somehow small states currently have a voice under the Electoral College system, and that they would lose that voice under a popular vote, is just the exact inverse of reality. Right now, small states have no voice because they, like big states and medium-size states across the country, are not battleground states. The only states that matter in a winner-take-all Electoral College scenario are battleground states, and those are the states where the candidates spend virtually 100 percent of their time and money trying to win.
There are 13 states with three or four electoral votes. We call those the small states. One of those states, New Hampshire, is a battleground state. New Hampshire gets more attention from both campaigns every four years than all the other 12 small states combined. The small states are a complete nonentity right now.
What about the claim that big cities would dominate a popular election?
As a factual mathematical matter, that’s just untrue. The biggest cities in the country don’t come close to having enough votes to swing a national election. They can’t even swing elections for governor in their own states. New York City didn’t vote for George Pataki. Los Angeles didn’t vote for Pete Wilson in 1990. The 50 biggest cities in the country represent about 15 percent of the population. Even in fairly big cities with more than 350,000 people or so, roughly 40 percent of the vote goes to Republican candidates — and in any case it’s far from zero. And often in rural areas, the same electoral math holds.
And then just by comparison, the rural areas of America also represent about 15 percent of the population, and they vote about 60/40 in favor of the Republicans. So big cities and rural America are essentially a wash in every presidential election. So the idea that big cities would somehow suddenly decide who the president was for everybody else is just wrong on the math.
A central focus of your book is this idea that ending the Electoral College would change the way candidates campaign and therefore the sorts of issues they prioritize. Why is that a big deal?
It’s a great question, and I think it really gets to the heart of what the problem is here. When candidates only visit a few states and even a few regions in those few states, you really see a warping of policy priorities. Both Democratic and Republican candidates focus on issues that are important to, say, coal miners in Pennsylvania or auto workers in Michigan, but those aren’t the only issues in the country. And if you have a campaign that is forced to pay attention to everyone in the country and has to treat every vote as equally important, which is what a popular vote election would be, this would solve these problems and it would be more fair to the country as a whole.
Issues like immigration reform, health care reform, background checks on guns — these are things that the vast majority of the country supports, and it’s very hard to get presidential candidates to really get behind them if they aren’t the key issues for voters in battleground states.
The most common defense of the Electoral College is that it’s a kind of last-resort firewall against a manifestly unfit president. Now, obviously, our current president proves how useless that firewall is, but is there a case, in principle at least, for keeping the Electoral College on these grounds?
No, it’s a terrible reason. And you just explained why: Donald Trump. If ever there was a candidate who should have been stopped by what we think the Electoral College was designed to do, it was Donald Trump in 2016. But the reverse happened. So the reality is that the Electoral College has never really worked as a firewall against unfit candidates because it’s a fundamentally partisan institution. The 2016 election ought to put an end to this argument forever.
There’s at least one way to effectively end the Electoral College without technically abolishing it. Can you explain what that is?
It’s called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, and it’s a quite simple way of using the Electoral College that the framers designed as a means to a popular vote. It’s not an end-run around the college, as people like to call it. It draws on the Constitution, which gives states almost total authority to award their electors however they want. So the idea is that states who join it agree to award all of their electors to whichever candidate wins the most votes in the nation, not in their state, which is how most states do it now. It’s an elegant and clever solution to this problem.
Do you think we reach a breaking point where the status quo loses its legitimacy and we’re confronted with a genuine political crisis?
People often say to me, “Well, how is this ever going to happen? Republicans have to get on board, and they’re never going to do it.” Everybody always has a reason for explaining why this isn’t going to work. I think that overestimates the American people’s tolerance for a system in which majority rule is violated repeatedly. If this happens again in 2020, I think you’ll see a much stronger push to get the compact passed in a few other states that are right now either considering it or may soon.
We’re in a moment where people are thinking about constitutional reform in a way that they rarely do, and there’s an openness to changing our basic structures and to question our basic assumptions about how government works. The way we pick our president is one of the prime places where those new ways of thinking could really lead to concrete change.
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All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year
Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.
Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)
During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)
Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)
Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.
Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)
This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.
Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)
If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.
Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)
With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.
Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)
The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.
Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)
Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.
Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)
The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.
The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.
The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.
The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.
Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)
We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.
Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)
The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.
Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)
The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.
Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)
Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.
Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)
Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.
Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.
Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)
With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.
Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)
Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.
Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)
The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.
Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)
The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.
Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained
Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.
In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.
Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.
It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.
Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.
Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.
Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.
The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”
At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.
On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.
That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.
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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year
From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.
Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.
From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.
“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.
Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.
The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.
Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.
Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.
Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.
The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.
Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.
Calls for urgent reduction of violence
Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.
Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.
“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.
There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.
1/4 I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever. https://t.co/hVl4b032W6
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 27, 2020
A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.
But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.
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