Those who know Tim Heidecker are probably most familiar with his comedy via Tim & Eric, the prolific comedy duo responsible for a distinct aesthetic of absurd and masterfully edited sketch comedy. His latest work, An Evening With Tim Heidecker, is devoid of these flourishes. Instead, the 44-year-old comedian does his impression of a hacky, forgetful comic shot in a style that is very true to the format: no rapid cuts, camera pans, or audible gulps a Tim & Eric fan might hope to see or hear.
From miscommunications with the AV crew, to flubbed and forgotten lines throughout, and exasperatedly re-trying bits, the material can come off as a spontaneous swipe at the prototypical macho hack comic. But Heidecker’s character is almost fifteen years in the making; he first performed it at a friend’s open mic night in Glendale, California. The character has evolved with the times, complete with a call out of “PC police” early on. And while he says standup comedy is oversaturated, he doesn’t mean any harm against the genre.
“I’m not campaigning against it, I’m just making fun of it a little bit,” he told VICE.
It’s sometimes jarring to watch a highly produced comedy special with the main character often failing to deliver his lines, regardless of intent. And the failure is what’s funny to Heidecker.
“You don’t see any mistakes if you watch a traditional standup special.” Heidecker told VICE. “It’s like this magical, perfect night. That’s not the entire point of what I do.”
This failure-centric comedy is something he’s always been drawn to.
“That kind of comedy has been in my blood,” he said. “I remember seeing my sister perform at a recital when we were like, 13. She couldn’t remember the second verse of this song. It’s just the funniest thing.” Even back then, he said, he found such mortifying experiences “molecularly funny.”
VICE spoke to Tim Heidecker over Zoom to talk about An Evening With Tim Heidecker, his recent folk-rock album, and his thoughts on standup comedy as an artform.
VICE: How does it feel dropping a project like this, when your last work—a folk-rock album titled Fear of Death—was surprisingly earnest?
Tim Heidecker: [laughs] It’s a bit—what’s the word for it, when you twist your head too far—it’s disorienting.
Whiplash! Thank you. That’s what I was looking for. It’s a weird fall for me. It appears I’m extremely prolific and busy with all these different things, but they all were done at different periods of time. Hopefully it [creates] the perception that I have a diverse output.
To connect the two, your music album was about the fear of death, and this standup character is the kind of guy who thinks it’s funnier to make fun of a new gender pronoun than confront that we’re all going to die and nothing matters.
[laughs] It’s funny because my record is Fear of Death and this is “Fear of Dying Onstage,” which he does pretty consistently throughout the hour.
What inspired this guy?
My friend Doug [DJ Douggpound] who does Office Hours with me, and is one of my closest friends and great collaborator and editor. He’s also just a lover of jokes, he has a funny standup routine. He used to do a friends open mic-y show in Glendale, and I used to go and try different things. It was so low-stakes. But I would notice people would come up, and they had the cadence of comedy, the rhythms of it from observing other comedians, but they just never had any material. Or it was very weak material. And this was a space for learning and growing, but I was like, Oh, I should try to parody that, and go up there and do your classic brick wall comedian with confidence those people seem to have, but without anything enlightening to say.
Comics say once you reach a level of success, it can be difficult to work out material, because people are just happy to see them. Playing this type of comic, did it get harder over time?
A shift happened because I would do it for a while and it got zero laughs in an uncomfortable way: coughing, and a little heckling, which is totally understandable. But after those videos spread around the internet, my audience was in on the joke. As you hear in the special, people are laughing, that’s not canned laughter. It’s weird how it full-circles, where the bad material becomes something people call out for. [laughs] They want to hear Coke versus Pepsi. The genesis of that is that it’s a shitty joke, and it’s bad. There’s a long tradition of that, early Steve Martin, that was kind of his shtick. Obviously, Andy Kaufman and Albert Brooks used to play around in that same territory. Of course Neil Hamburger. I feel like I’m playing in that arena. Arena’s a terrible word.
Was there a moment where you realized this theme of calling out the “PC police” in standup comedy? If you watch comedy specials now, it’s almost like Terms of Service, where every comic references it in some way.
I honestly stay away from watching those, because they just bum me out. I don’t watch a lot of comedy in general that’s out there right now. I hate calling people out, it’s not very nice. But it does feel in the past few years, certainly the Comedy Store and a lot of the defensiveness from that Comedy Store scene and the friends of Joe Rogan clique. It’s very testosterone-y and prideful of what they do, and the sacredness of what they do, and that they’ve tapped into something very special. The seriousness about it is antithetical to the silliness of what comedy is about, to me.
It feels like the meta-conversation has drowned out the jokes themselves.
There’s also this compulsiveness about it. I’ve just watched clips of this stuff, but the language of it and the compulsiveness of, ‘I gotta work on my chunk,’ and the process of it, it feels like guys talking about cars or sports. They’re talking about something that’s so free and artistic and meant to be fun, treating it like a code you can crack.
What made you decide to shoot this pretty straightforwardly, as opposed to having things like audible gulps, and quick cuts-
Everything that I do, the form that it exists in is very important to be accurate. It’s not just random that we present things the way we present them. This one, it wasn’t a big debate about it. It was like, ‘This should look and feel and smell like every standup special you’ve ever seen,’ because you don’t want to distract away from that. If you were to ‘Tim and Eric’ the thing, it would be a mess. [laughs]
Are the sunglasses you use in the special, were those planted in the audience?
No. You can choose to believe me, I have no way to prove to you, but the one thing I love about doing that character and that act, I love the live element of it and the risk that something might work, and something might not.
I believe you, I ask because that style of sunglasses is so inherently funny.
Why would somebody have them—in LA—in their pocket, is very convenient for me. I got lucky.
You’ve been doing some of these bits for almost 15 years, but this parody of a comic is now timely, this guy who’s so pissed you can’t say anything anymore, “are your triggered,” “beef is good” kind of thing. How did that character change since you first started doing?
If you look at the original, there’s way more hesitation, and a little more failing. A little less confidence. The more I did it, I naturally got more confident doing it, and then I played into the overconfidence and the brashness, the strut, the pacing on stage. That became part of the character, I’m sure I picked that up from all the guys out there that do that. I definitely figured out it’s more relaxing for the audience. You don’t want to feel bad for that character. You can dislike him or think he’s a jerk. But if you see him up there shaking with notes and getting lost, you feel like you’re laughing at someone who’s in trouble. But if I come out there with a big fuckin’ attitude and I’m not very pleasant, and I fail, then you can laugh at that person.
You’ve performed music as an earnest musician, but you’ve also got a song in this special—well, a couple songs—about drinking piss. What is it like when you’re performing music, and people might be waiting for a joke?
It’s been a rough road, a little bit. Why should anybody just accept what I’m doing? The first ten years of my career was all about subverting your expectations about what I’m putting in front of you. Nobody wants to feel like the last person to laugh. So you see me coming out doing earnest music that’s not funny, there’s a propensity to say, well, this is a joke, I don’t want to be made a fool of. I can only do what I do and explain myself to the best of my abilities. Certainly my audience can discern the difference and I hope over time it just becomes clear that I’m just a guy that works in a lot of different pods. I’m not great at anything, but I’m pretty good at a lot of different things, and I just try to do whatever I feel is creatively stimulating and don’t worry about what box that puts me in, or what genre I’m supposed to be.
Can you imagine ever doing a standup special as yourself? I’ve tried it. I understand what’s hard about it. You do end up putting yourself in front of people. I do that with my music, maybe closest. I’ve played my music live. I think there’s a world where I can play my music and tell some stories. Now that I’ve built up a body of work and lived a little bit of a life, I probably have more to say about my life than I did 15 years ago when I really felt like, ‘Well I don’t have anything really to say, so I’m going to pretend like I’m a guy that has something to say.’ Who knows. I’m never performing live again anyways with the way the world is going, so I’m not worried about it.
How does it feel talking about this kind of stuff? Obviously this special stands on its own, does talking about it feel like frog dissection?
A little bit. But I do like talking to smart people, assuming you’re smart, I haven’t seen any indication that you’re not, it’s interesting to reflect on it. It beats doing the actual work I have in front of me. I used to think, ‘Don’t ever talk about it because that ruins everything,’ but it’s not the worst thing in the world to give people a little context about what you’re trying to do. I think [Bob] Odenkirk said, ‘People are busy. They don’t have time to fuckin’ solve the puzzle of what you’re trying to do.’ Why not? Let them know where you’re coming from and it’ll make it easier to enjoy it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
‘An Evening With Tim Heidecker’ premieres on YouTube tonight at 9 p.m. EST.
Ashwin Rodrigues is a staff writer at VICE.
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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