2020 has been a strange and unpredictable year for so many things, and the US census is no exception.
Some of its challenges were anticipated: It’s America’s first digital census, so even though some people have the option to respond offline, the majority of its responses are meant to be handled online. The census has also been dealing with funding cuts and the Trump administration’s continued attempts to exclude undocumented immigrants from its count. But the pandemic added a whole new set of problems to the mix, resulting in what some experts fear will be the least accurate census in modern history.
Since the census determines how many representatives states get in Congress and how federal funding is distributed, undercounted communities will be deprived of resources and representation. You can help avoid this by responding now if you haven’t already.
There is still time to respond to the 2020 census, thanks to a Thursday court decision that extends the deadline to October 31.
In a normal year, self-response and door-to-door census-taking would have been done by July 31. When the pandemic pushed everything back, the Census Bureau set a new deadline of October 31. Then in August, under pressure from the Trump administration, the Bureau suddenly announced that it would wrap up those operations by September 30. Several organizations and some municipalities sued the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce, which oversees the Bureau. They were able to get a preliminary injunction that put the deadline back to October 31.
The Trump administration is planning to appeal that decision, however, so there’s still a chance the deadline will go back to September 30. Respond now to ensure that you’ll be counted no matter what the outcome.
Why you should respond
“The census is the largest, most complex activity this nation conducts short of mobilizing for war,” Terri Ann Lowenthal, former staff director of the House census oversight subcommittee and census consultant, told Recode.
The census count affects everything from how many seats in the House of Representatives a state gets to how trillions of dollars in federal funds are distributed to communities across the country for the next 10 years. That money goes to things like Medicaid, roads, education, assistance for lower-income families, and environmental programs. Your life will be affected, one way or another, by the census results.
It happens once every 10 years, it’s mandated in the Constitution, and you are legally required to respond to it. But not everyone does: In previous recent censuses, roughly two-thirds of the population self-responded, and that’s about how many have self-responded this year so far. But this national number can be a bit misleading, as self-response rates vary across the country.
The rest of the count comes from census takers who go to the homes of nonrespondents, and then from other methods the census uses to impute whoever is still missing. But the self-response is generally considered to be the most accurate answer, so the more of those the census gets, the better. This is especially true for so-called “hard to count” areas, where people are more likely to be undercounted or missed. Those tend to be certain minorities, people with lower incomes, people who live in rural or remote communities, and young children. The Census Bureau gives four main reasons why some groups are hard to count: hard to locate, hard to contact, hard to persuade, and hard to interview.
How to respond
For 2020, the Census Bureau promoted an online option that makes it easier than ever for most people to respond. Unless you live in certain remote or rural communities that don’t have physical addresses for mail service, you should have received a notice in the mail with your census ID, which you can use to log into the online questionnaire. If you don’t have your census ID, just click this link to answer a few additional questions about your address and you’ll be able to fill out the questionnaire. If you don’t have an address, that’s okay, too: You can and should still answer with as much information about your location as possible.
If you don’t have easy access to the internet or would rather respond offline, you can call (844) 330-2020 if you speak English and live in the 50 states or Washington, DC. If you need to answer in another language or if you live in Puerto Rico, check this for a list of phone numbers for the one that applies to your situation.
A third option is in the mail. If you didn’t respond to the initial invitation mailed to you in March, you should have received a paper questionnaire to mail back instead.
What happens if you don’t respond
If you don’t self-respond, you’re leaving it up to someone else to ensure that you’ll be counted accurately — or at all. Census takers, or enumerators, will try to visit every household that doesn’t self-respond, a process that was supposed to begin in May. The pandemic pushed things back significantly, so census takers began their work in most places in mid-August. If census takers are unable to reach you through their door-to-door efforts, they might rely on proxies — asking your neighbor or landlord to supply the information instead, for instance — or they will just mark your home as vacant. The more work enumerators have to do and the less time they have to do it, the less accurate the census count will likely be.
“More self-response means better data, so more time for self-response is a good thing,” Steven Romalewski, director of the mapping service at the Center for Urban Research at City University of New York Graduate Center and creator of the “Hard to Count” map, told Recode. Romalewski said the recent ruling extending the deadline “also means the Bureau will stick to its Covid-19 timeframe for nonresponse follow-up, meaning the door-knocking enumeration won’t be rushed, and census takers will have the time they had planned on to be more thorough in reaching people in the hardest-to-count communities.”
After October 31, the Bureau will switch to other means to complete the count, like using existing administrative records from other agencies, such as the Social Security Administration and state departments of motor vehicles. These are considered to be the least accurate method of counting, and the most likely to miss typically undercounted populations.
Why 2020’s census could be one of the least accurate ever
Between budget cuts, politics, and the pandemic, the 2020 census — an already complex and massive undertaking — has been more difficult to pull off. Experts have been warning for years that the 2020 census is underfunded to the point that it could affect its accuracy. This underfunding predates Trump’s presidency, but Trump hasn’t helped matters.
“We’ve never had a pandemic like this; we’ve never had a political climate this bad,” Romalewski said. “In some ways, it’s impressive that we’ve even gotten to this level. But we know that in 2010, even with a higher self-response rate, there were still problems with the accuracy, the count, as far as certain population groups go. So despite the challenges, we still need to do better.”
Trump was determined to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, the justification for which remained elusive — which was why the Supreme Court struck it down. But Trump’s push for it still discouraged many undocumented immigrants from responding. Their undocumented status could also mean they don’t show up in the administrative records the Bureau will use to fill in the numbers of people who weren’t counted by enumerators or self-responses.
“It really did enormous damage to the trust that people need to have in the Census Bureau in order to participate,” Romalewski said.
The Trump administration is now trying to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census, recently ordering that their numbers not be included when determining congressional apportionments. The final decision on this will likely be determined by the Supreme Court in the coming months.
The pandemic has added several new wrinkles to the already troubled process. Planned in-person events to spread awareness or take census counts — which often focus on hard-to-count areas — have been canceled or replaced with virtual outreach efforts. But those won’t do much for areas with limited or no internet access, which tend to be undercounted in the first place.
Even some of the questionnaire distributions have had to be delayed. Typically, homes that don’t have regular mail delivery — remote or rural communities, including Native American reservations — get their census forms through hand delivery. The pandemic delayed these, which therefore delayed their responses.
People also may be less inclined to open their door and talk to a stranger when census takers come to their homes for nonresponse followups. The Census Bureau has had trouble hiring and retaining census takers due, in part, to their reluctance to be exposed to multitudes of people in the middle of a pandemic (the bureau was already having trouble getting enough workers before the pandemic hit).
The new timing of in-person operations is also not ideal, Lowenthal told Recode. Coming in late summer and early fall puts it in the middle of wildfire and hurricane season — two things that make it difficult to conduct in-person counts in affected locations. And the length of time that has elapsed between the census date of April 1 and the beginning of the in-person counts, as well as the significantly increased movement of people around the country because of the pandemic, may also cause accuracy issues.
“Once the population started to churn because of the pandemic, the Census Bureau faced an unprecedented challenge of trying to count people who have moved from where they could have been residing months ago,” Lowenthal said.
The Census Bureau had planned to compensate for these delays by shifting from December 31, 2020, to April 30, 2021, as the date when the president would receive the final results with the apportionment counts. This would both give people enough time to respond and the Census Bureau ample time to process the data it collected. The Trump administration initially agreed with this, asking Congress to extend the deadline accordingly. But the Senate has so far failed to act, despite the House passing a bill that included an extension and bipartisan support in the Senate.
Then, the Trump administration changed course on that April 2021 deadline. In early August, the Census Bureau announced that it was concluding self-response and field operations a month early in order to have three months to process all the data and meet a December 31 deadline to give the results to the president. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said that the Bureau would be able to deliver its complete and accurate count by this time.
But many others disagree. Internal Census Bureau emails show its employees have serious concerns that the new deadlines can be met, and the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Commerce said in a recent report that the accelerated timeline will likely increase the risk of an inaccurate and incomplete count. A report from the American Statistical Association estimated that cutting the response deadline short by a month would mean significantly fewer households will be counted in some states. That, in turn, could mean that the communities that already tend to have the lowest self-response rates are more likely to be inaccurately counted again.
The recent decision from Northern California District Court Judge Lucy Koh extends the response deadline back to October 31 and suspends the December 31 deadline to give the results to the president, which should give the Bureau the time it needs to process the data. That’s assuming, of course, that Koh’s decision stands on an appeal.
In the meantime, the count continues.
“The Census Bureau continues to focus on conducting a complete 2020 Census count and will comply with court orders,” the Bureau told Recode.
There is one bright spot here: the online self-response system. Leading up to the census, there were concerns that too much traffic at once could cause the site to crash or that it might fall victim to a cybersecurity attack. That doesn’t appear to have happened.
“The majority of people responding to the 2020 census on their own have done so online, the online response has not experienced a single moment of downtime since it opened in March,” the Census Bureau said.
So, why don’t you go ahead and fill yours out now.
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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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The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. It’s essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.
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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