The United Nations will have a quiet 75th session this year. The heads of state are staying home, the high-level sessions are happening online, the bilateral meetings and cocktails parties are canceled, and the midtown Manhattan drivers, at least, are getting a reprieve.
The emptied-out United Nations headquarters in New York City is another casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic. The General Assembly, the annual mass gathering that attracts world leaders each year to Manhattan, will be virtual this year for the first time in its history, with presidents and prime ministers delivering pre-taped video remarks instead.
It’s possibly also the most potent metaphor for the situation the United Nations system finds itself in on its 75th anniversary — in the middle of a global health crisis that is pulling the world apart.
“It really is fairly symbolic of the emptiness in multilateralism,” Thomas Weiss, a United Nations expert at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, said of the moment.
At the center of it all is the Trump administration, which has gone beyond the general skepticism some previous US presidents have had for the United Nations system to outright scorn. Trump has gone to New York to address the UN General Assembly every year of his presidency so far, and each year has basically repurposed an “America First” speech. He will likely revisit some of those themes this year, too. Except Trump is expected to deliver his speech via video conference, rather than in person, on Tuesday.
But the backdrop will be starkly different this year, and not just because of the logistics. The pandemic has widened the cracks in the global order and increased geopolitical tensions, particularly among the superpowers. The United States, which helped establish the United Nations system 75 years ago, this year moved to withdraw from its premiere health agency, the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Trump administration’s retreat from alliances and multilateral institutions has gone from rhetoric to reality. The consequences of that — not just for the US, but the rest of the world— are in painful view. The UN system is only as strong and resilient as its member states make it, and when the US pulls away, the institution starts fraying along with it.
The United Nations has always been far from a perfect system, but it is at a particularly precarious moment. It may not withstand another four years of Trump, but, with an election coming, there is also a possibility it might not have to.
This might be Trump’s last UN speech — or the last of the United Nations as we’ve known it.
An unconventional UN convention
Trump toyed with the idea of delivering his General Assembly address in person, to a nearly empty chamber, but the White House confirmed Thursday that Trump would not be making the trip to New York City after all.
All world leaders did have the option to attend in person, but they would have had to follow New York’s quarantine rules for travelers, meaning they’d have had to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. That “made it impossible for any leader to come and physically be present in the General Assembly,” UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir told reporters. Instead, leaders will deliver pre-recorded remarks, introduced by a delegate from their respective countries who will be in the chamber.
The spectacle of the United Nations — all of these world leaders descending on New York — is mostly what focuses the attention on the General Assembly. The pre-recorded remarks will make it hard for any world leaders to respond directly (or indirectly) to what others say in real-time.
Plus, a lot of the real work of the United Nations is the diplomacy that happens on the sidelines of the main show. That will be nonexistent this year, and at a time when it’s probably more necessary than ever.
So to put it pretty bluntly: Expectations are pretty low for this year’s General Assembly, which is basically going to be one very, very long Zoom meeting of world leaders. “There is not going to be this symbolism of the parade of world leaders to address the ‘Town Hall of the World,’” Stewart Patrick, a fellow in global governance at the Council on Foreign Relations, told me.
But even in this diminished form, what leaders say will matter. That’s especially true for Trump.
This will be Trump’s chance to go after China and Iran
Last year, Trump again went all in on national sovereignty, reprising his case that all nations should protect their borders and reject mutual and international cooperation that doesn’t put their country’s own interests first. He also touted some of his foreign policy successes, as he saw them, including his trade deals. He discussed the threats of China and Iran at length and condemned Venezuela’s socialist regime. Expect a repeat, and then some this year. (Vox reached out to the White House to confirm that Trump has submitted a video to the UN, and we’ll update if we hear back.)
Trump is scheduled to speak Tuesday morning, and it will be as much for world leaders as it is for a domestic audience. This US is six weeks out from an election, after all. This is a chance for him to showcase his accomplishments, whether or not they match with reality.
The president will almost certainly bring up the recent normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states as proof of his dealmaking and diplomacy skills. He’ll also likely bring up Venezuela, because the anti-socialism message is a case he’s also making at home.
Most of all, though, the speech will be an opportunity for Trump to scapegoat countries and institutions that he blames for the spread of the coronavirus — a tactic he’s used to deflect from the US government’s own failures to handle the pandemic.
China, of course, will be at the top of the list. Tensions between Washington and Beijing have escalated in the wake of Covid-19, as the administration seeks to blame China for mishandling the outbreak in the early days of the pandemic. This will be a chance for Trump to show how tough he is on China, even if President Xi Jinping won’t be there to hear the message in person.
Trump is also expected to promote his maximum pressure campaign against Iran, an issue that’s particularly relevant as the US is battling in the United Nations Security Council to put snapback sanctions back on Iran for violating the Iran deal (even though the US itself withdrew from the deal). The United Nations Security Council had rejected the US’s request to reimpose those sanctions last month, and America’s traditional allies are more or less ignoring this unilateral move. But the timing of this standoff gives Trump a platform to pressure the United Nations Security Council to back the US.
The president has always rejected the multilateral vision of countries working in concert to address global issues that undergirds the UN in broad terms. But this year will be a test to see if Trump goes after the UN and its agencies more directly, whether on Iran sanctions or the WHO’s handling of the coronavirus.
The administration has taken steps to withdraw from the WHO, which it claims failed in its coronavirus response by being too conciliatory to China. This is a massive move because of how much the United States contributes to the international organization, and how much of its work already reflects US interests. It is also a profound misreading of how global institutions work: Power comes from powerful member states, and the US walking away only cedes more leverage to countries like China who might make up the gap.
This is why Trump’s speech could very well signal what another four years of his presidency means for the UN. The Trump administration already withdrew from a bunch of UN agencies, including the Human Rights Council, but leaving the WHO is a much more dramatic step.
The administration has, so far, snubbed cooperation on Covid-19, specifically the WHO-affiliated effort to distribute a vaccine globally. Other nationalist and populist leaders have also pushed back against multilateral efforts, but none have the influence or financial clout of the US. And if the US refuses to work within the system, why would any other country agree to do so?
“I think it’s a pivotal moment,” Patrick told me. “The next couple of months are going to be absolutely critical in deciding the future directions of the US-UN relationship and conceivably, even the fate of the United Nations as the world’s premier body for international cooperation.”
The UN is struggling to meet this moment. But the organization still matters.
This United Nations is facing some of the greatest global challenges in decades. A pandemic has killed more than 950,000 people worldwide and will demand an unparalleled mass vaccination initiative. A global economic catastrophe, a hunger crisis, an education crisis, a domestic violence pandemic and more have all sprung from Covid-19, and the outbreak has either compounded or sidelined other global emergencies like war, and migration, inequality, poverty, and climate change.
But the UN is struggling to meet this moment, even as its member states commit, in principle, to the institution.
On Monday, the UN hosted a high-level meeting to commemorate the body’s 75th anniversary, and adopt a resolution reaffirming the necessity of multilateral cooperation, with the UN at the center. Though this is meant to be pretty uncontroversial, in drafting the resolution, the US objected to language about the commitments in the Paris Climate Accords. (Ultimately, references to the Paris deal and to climate change more generally remained in the resolution, but the language was watered down a bit.) On Monday, Trump was scheduled to give a video address at the commemoration; instead, another UN ambassador addressed the audience.
The resolution also mentions Covid-19, calling it “the largest global challenge in the history of the United Nations.” And yet, even as the specter of the pandemic hangs over this virtual United Nations, there is a sense that no one wants to address Covid-19 directly. All of it is too fraught, too political.
The geopolitical tensions between the United States and China are a roadblock to any real discussion, as both are powerful veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council. A cooperative approach to equitable funding and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine is being threatened by vaccine nationalism. There is a high-level side meeting next week on accelerating the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, that will discuss equitable access to treatments and vaccines. But again, the US has already said it won’t participate, and China also doesn’t appear to be on the list, which the WHO is releasing Monday.
That doesn’t mean real progress can’t be made at the UN this year, but much of the hard work of diplomacy usually gets done on the sidelines, at informal meetings. And that can’t happen this year.
This is the world that nationalistic politics has wrought, playing out in real-time. The UN has many flaws, but it is now trying to withstand an unprecedented crisis at the same time many of its members are turning inward. Its ability to overcome them is ultimately going to depend on how seriously member states take this recommitment to multilateralism — if it moves beyond principle, into practice.
There are glimmers of hope, like cooperation on a Covid-19 vaccine, and the European Union trying to assert a greater leadership role. But there are also real danger signs. It sounds dramatic to say, but this week may offer a hint at whether the United Nations can, even in its imperfect form, withstand these challenges, or whether three-quarters of a century after it was formed the world will see it slide toward true irrelevance.
“Institutions rarely, completely disappear. They just become shells of their former selves,” Weiss, the UN expert at CUNY, said. “But the organization can be considerably less visible, vigorous and important than even it is 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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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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