Nationwide, nearly 21,000 polling stations have closed since 2016, a VICE News investigation has found.
NORWOOD, Georgia — In this desolate Georgia town, population 216, the City Hall groundskeeper pried open the doors to the shed of the one-story brick building. Two wooden voting booths, dusty from age and lack of use, were pushed against the wall, a relic of the past.
“Everybody used to go vote right here. You can walk over here any time,” said Willie Hudson, 73, recalling the ease of strolling over from his home to cast his ballot.
The polling location is now shuttered, one of hundreds across the state in recent years, in big cities like Atlanta and tiny towns like Norwood. Hudson, who’s Black and lives two blocks from his local City Hall, now gets in his car and drives five miles to the neighboring town to vote.
The wave of closures came after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision that gutted a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act meant to ensure fair voting practices in nine states and scores of other counties with histories of racially-motivated voter suppression, including Georgia and its Southern neighbors. The high court’s decision said requiring these localities to get federal pre-clearance to change their voting laws and practices was no longer necessary.
Since then, the nine states that were once covered by the law have slashed 2,811 polling locations, most of them in the last four years, according to an investigation by VICE News. Only one, Arizona, has expanded vote-by-mail. Three still require voters to meet strict criteria for mail-in ballots. Those numbers mirror a nationwide trend, where nearly 21,000 polling locations shuttered across the country between 2016 and 2020, partly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The issue of voting access is at the forefront of the upcoming elections, especially in Georgia, which historically trends Republican but has become a key battleground state this year. Polls show former Vice President Joe Biden neck and neck with President Donald Trump. Scenes of winding lines of people waiting up to eight hours to cast their ballots at early voting sites have raised fresh allegations of voter suppression in a state with a long legacy of racism. It’s also raised concerns that the lines could be even longer on Election Day.
Economic considerations have largely driven the elimination of polling sites, especially in impoverished parts of rural Georgia. Freed from needing federal approval to change their voting practices, cash-strapped counties, some of them run by Black leaders, stopped investing in maintaining the sites, focusing instead on early voting.
Operating fewer voting locations requires fewer poll workers, less equipment and less oversight. In addition, a renewed focus on disability access has meant many churches—favored spots for voting locations—are no longer suitable. Schoolhouses, churches, and city halls that once served as voting sites now sit empty across the state.
“The quality of the voting experience is a measure of which ZIP code you live in, and that’s just unfair,” said Georgia civil rights attorney Francys Johnson. “It is very much a racial issue. Budgets are based on priorities. It is not a priority for those in power for everyone to vote.”
Underlying dynamics make the situation especially complex.
Many of the polling locations that shuttered were in predominantly white churches in rural Georgia communities with a legacy of racism. Some Black leaders say their constituents don’t feel comfortable voting there and prefer traveling a few extra miles to cast their ballot in a government building.
“A lot of Black people, they aren’t going to go [to the white churches]. I am just being real. That’s why I say consolidating locations is the best thing that ever happened, because it’s in a government building,” said Robert Henderson, one of two Black commissioners in rural Butts County, about an hour outside Atlanta.
Rural counties have seen some of the highest percentage of polling-location closures. Unlike in metropolitan Atlanta, voters are largely casting their early ballots in less than 30 minutes. But fewer locations means voters without access to a car have longer distances to travel, and little to no public transportation to get there.
In McDuffie, two hours from Atlanta, local officials have eliminated 8 of the county’s 10 polling sites in order to save money.
The consolidation was voted on by the county board of elections and carried out by Phyllis Brooks, the county’s election’s director. She has an unusual history; when she started in the position 29 years ago, she had no obvious qualifications—she was an X-ray technician and served in the Army before that.
Brooks said when she was interviewed for the job, she was asked one question—how she would respond if someone called her the N-word. Her response was short and to the point: “I’m still Black. And I hear these folks call me worse names than that.”
Brooks got the job.
Now, she’s presiding over a polling location at the high school she couldn’t attend as a kid because it was segregated. Brooks says the county had no choice but to consolidate polling locations, because they were too small, lacked heating and air conditioning, or didn’t comply with disability-access laws. But she supports the move.
“There’s vote-by-mail. There’s 16 days of early voting,” she said. “Those who want to vote will find a way to vote.”
The 1965 Voting Rights Act was one of the triumphs of the civil rights era, an aggressive effort to address measures designed to deny Black people, and later Latinos and Native Americans, the right to vote. In gutting a key section of the law, the high court signaled that the civil rights legislation had worked and voter suppression was largely a thing of the past. Critics of the decision worried it would open the door to just that.
Since that ruling, Arizona has eliminated 46% of its polling sites; Mississippi, 13%; Georgia, 12%, Virginia, 11% Texas, 10%; South Carolina, 9%; Louisiana, 8%, and Alabama, 5%. Alaska, which had for decades suppressed the vote of Alaska Natives, cut 16%. (This data accounts for Election Day voting booths rather than early-voting sites.)
While some states like California and New Jersey have eliminated thousands of voting sites in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve also expanded mail-in voting. California, which eliminated 10,119 locations, or 73%, offset that by sending absentee ballots to all 21 million registered voters for the first time this election cycle.
By contrast, Mississippi requires both the absentee ballot application and the ballot itself to be witnessed and signed by a notary or public official. Texas and Louisiana also require voters to meet strict criteria in order to vote by mail, such as being elderly, disabled, or living outside the country.
Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, decided against mailing absentee ballot applications to voters for the November election—despite doing so in the primary due to the pandemic—because he said it was too impractical and expensive. After a protracted battle with voting rights groups, Raffensperger eventually created an online portal for people to apply for an absentee ballot.
The elimination of voting precincts has taken place around the state, across racial lines. Some of the most dramatic decreases happened in counties with an overwhelming white population.
Still, the impact of fewer voting sites has hit nonwhite communities hardest, especially in metro Atlanta. Part of the reason has to do with simple math. Since 2012, Georgia’s voter rolls have grown by around 2 million people, driven by a surge of nonwhite registered voters in metro Atlanta. Over the same time period, the state’s four biggest counties that comprise the Atlanta area have cut 54, or 7%, of their polling locations.
An analysis by VICE News found that the number of active voters per polling precinct in Georgia’s four most-populated counties averaged 3,271 per location, up from 2,402 in 2012. By contrast, the statewide average is 2,965 active voters per precinct.
Also driving a greater number of people to the polls are fears that absentee ballots won’t be counted, due to President Trump’s repeated and unfounded assertions that mail-in voting is “rigged.” Many voters who requested absentee ballots are instead showing up to the polls to vote in person.
Poll workers report spending 90% of their time dealing with these voters, Vasu Abhiraman, policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Dekalb County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. Dekalb is the fourth-most-populous county in the state and home to many of the viral videos showing wildly long lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots.
“That’s the bottleneck,” Abhiraman said. “Georgia is going to see a surge of voters like it’s never seen before in its history. And if this bottleneck is present [on Election Day], we are likely to see some real issues and some really long lines.”
Gov. Brian Kemp’s history has fueled concerns of voter suppression.
As secretary of state—and while running for governor in 2018—Kemp removed 560,000 Georgians from the polls—8 percent of the state’s registered voters—because they had skipped too many elections. Kemp said that by weeding out infrequent voters, he was safeguarding the election against fraud. Subsequent reporting found that around 107,000 of those people would have been eligible to vote, and that Black voters were affected at a disproportionate rate compared to white voters.
He also spearheaded the state’s “exact match” law, which suspends a person’s voting status if the names on their government IDs don’t exactly match their names on voter rolls, including hyphens and accent marks. The state has largely abandoned the policy after the courts ruled that it could disproportionately disenfranchise minorities.
And Kemp encouraged counties to eliminate voting locations. A how-to guide issued by his office in 2015 details strategies for closing polling locations to show “how the change can benefit voters and the public interest.” The document twice points out that counties no longer need to get federal approval to close precincts because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision Shelby v. Holder.
Butts County—perhaps best known as a backdrop to the Netflix series “Stranger Things” —is emblematic of the problems, and also complexities, of eliminating voting locations.
The number of registered voters in the county has ballooned from around 12,000 to 17,500 since 2016. There is just one place for the voters to cast their ballot—at the administration building in the city center. The elections commission eliminated the outlying four sites in 2017, billing it as a money-saving measure.
The response to the consolidations didn’t play out along expected racial lines. While civil rights activists have raised alarm bells about the consolidation of voting locations as a form of voter suppression, the only county commissioner to express concerns about the move was Russ Crumbley, who is white and Republican.
“We should be making it easy for people to vote,” Crumbley said. “Some of the elderly people live in rural areas and it’s harder for them to get to town to vote.”
But Henderson, one of the Black commissioners, praised the consolidation of voting sites. “With a 23,000 population, why do we want to scatter them around the county?” he said. “I don’t trust the system anyway. I think if you got it under one roof, you’re better off.”
Commissioner Keith Douglas, who is also Black, supported the move—but is now having second thoughts. “Looking at it now, it might not have been a good idea to consolidate into one,” he said. “There wasn’t a study committee done; I would look into doing it again based on the study committee.”
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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