Just five years ago, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia all blocked people convicted of felonies from ever voting again — even after they had fully completed their sentences for prison, parole, or probation.
Today, every one of these states — most recently, Iowa — has allowed at least some people who’ve finished their sentences to vote, potentially reenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Americans.
It hasn’t been an easy shift. In Florida, voters approved an amendment to their state constitution in 2018 that lets people who’ve completed their sentences vote again, excluding those convicted of murder or felony sex offenses. But the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a law requiring ex-felons to pay all outstanding court fees before they’re allowed to vote — blocking possibly hundreds of thousands of Floridians who can’t afford the fees from voting.
The law is now tied up in legal battles, with a recent federal appeals court ruling in its favor.
But the trend has been toward enfranchising more people as they get out of prison or after they serve other sentences.
Some activists want to go further, with a goal of giving everyone the right to vote even if they’re currently incarcerated. Only two states — Maine and Vermont — currently let people vote even from prison, regardless of their crimes.
The rest of the states impose some kinds of restrictions, including barring people from voting permanently if they committed worse crimes (like murder), or only letting them vote after they complete prison, parole, probation, or all of the above.
Supporters of loosening the restrictions further argue that voting should be a universal right — one not affected by even a felony record. They point out that these laws have a racially disproportionate impact, particularly on Black people, due to the systemic racism that runs through the criminal justice system. And in some cases, they note, that may be intentional: Some of these disenfranchisement laws have roots in the Jim Crow era, in which lawmakers around the country replaced the system of slavery with another system of legal oppression.
As Florida’s experience shows, though, there’s still resistance to allowing everyone to vote. Some of that is strictly political: Republicans in particular worry that allowing ex-felons to vote could boost turnout for Democrats. Others simply object to the idea of letting people vote while they’re in prison or due to their felony records — seeing their loss of the right to vote as part of the punishment for their crimes.
That latter point of contention has led to debate not just between Republicans and Democrats but also within the Democratic Party. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) argued during the 2020 presidential primaries that people should be allowed to vote within prison, and more moderate candidates in the race pushed back.
A lot is potentially at stake: More than 6 million Americans in 2016 were prohibited from voting due to a felony conviction, according to the Sentencing Project. That included more than 20 percent of all potential Black voters in Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia at the time.
While the research suggests not all of those people would end up voting, many likely would, and that could disproportionately benefit Democrats — who have much more support from minority communities — in states with very close votes, including Florida.
Where the debate lands, then, could determine not just who has the right to vote in America but which political directions the country goes in the future.
Some felony disenfranchisement laws have roots in Jim Crow
Preventing people with criminal records from voting in the US goes back to the colonial era and the concept of “civil death” — the notion that some bad actions effectively left a person dead in terms of civic engagement. But there’s also a uniquely American, racist twist to this story, rooted in Jim Crow.
Felony disenfranchisement laws were part of the push after the Civil War, particularly in the South, to limit civil rights gains following the end of slavery and ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th constitutional amendments protecting minority rights. This resistance also included the Jim Crow laws that legally enforced racial segregation, as well as other limits on Black voting power. Undoing all of this has been a decades-long project for civil rights activists.
For example, after the South lost the Civil War, state lawmakers in Florida enacted laws — the Black Codes — to constrain Black rights. They created crimes, such as disobedience and “disrespect to the employer,” that could be enforced in a way that would target and criminalize Black people in particular, according to a 2016 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, an advocacy group.
Then, when Florida was forced to write voting rights protections for men of all races into its state constitution, lawmakers added an exception that would exempt victims of the Black Codes:
Article XIV, Section 2, imposed a lifetime voting ban for people with felony convictions. Section 4 of this same suffrage article directed the legislature to “enact the necessary laws to exclude from … the right of suffrage, all persons convicted of bribery, perjury, larceny, or of infamous crime” — the same crimes the legislature had recently recognized and expanded through the Black Code.
Since then, Florida has changed its constitution and laws, Brennan noted. The felony disenfranchisement law was reformed again after the report, in the 2018 elections and the following year. But the roots of its post–Civil War disenfranchisement laws linger.
Florida was not alone. Journalists and historians have documented similar efforts in Virginia and other Southern states. And, of course, the federal government had to enact the (now-weakened) Voting Rights Act of 1965 to shield Black voters from state-level discrimination, as well as other civil rights laws to prohibit other forms of systemic racism.
But the criminal justice system remains one path toward disenfranchising voters, with a criminal or felony record often costing people various legal rights and protections even after they get out of jail or prison. And this system is rife with racial disparities, as Radley Balko explained for the Washington Post in his thorough breakdown of the research.
“We use our criminal justice system to label people of color ‘criminals’ and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind,” Michelle Alexander argued in her influential (and at times criticized) book The New Jim Crow. “Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans.”
Still, felony disenfranchisement laws have survived legal challenges. Courts, including the US Supreme Court, have generally upheld such voting restrictions under the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which suggests the government may abridge the right to vote due to “participation in rebellion, or other crime.”
Without the courts, the only real hope for these efforts is to turn influential politicians and public opinion around on the issue. This might have to trickle down to the state level, too, because there’s some scholarly debate about whether Congress even has the power to end felony disenfranchisement at the federal level.
There’s a push to end felony disenfranchisement
Given this racist history and the continued disproportionate disenfranchisement of Black voters through this system, activists have called for an end to these laws. Some have said that every US citizen should have the right to vote, no matter the circumstances.
In 2019, Sen. Sanders, whose home state of Vermont lets people vote from within prison, made the issue a part of his platform in the presidential primary. He argued that voting is a right that should never be taken away from anyone in a democracy. And that means people, no matter how terrible they prove to be, should keep their right to vote.
“Even if Trump’s former campaign manager and personal lawyer end up in jail, they should still be able to vote — regardless of who they cast their vote for,” he wrote in USA Today. He later added, “In my view, the crooks on Wall Street who caused the great recession of 2008 that hurt millions of Americans are not ‘good’ people. But they have the right to vote, and it should never be taken away.”
This led to some Democratic opposition. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg led the charge, arguing, “I do believe that when you are out, when you have served your sentence, then part of being restored to society is that you are part of the political life of this nation again — and one of the things that needs to be restored is your right to vote. … But part of the punishment when you’re convicted of a crime and you’re incarcerated is you lose certain rights, you lose your freedom. And I think during that period it does not make sense to have an exception for the right to vote.”
More conservative politicians, particularly Republicans, have resisted even more moderate efforts to restore people’s right to vote after they’ve completed their sentences. That’s occurred in Florida, where state legislators and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) passed a law to force ex-felons to pay back court fees, fines, and restitution, or get an exemption from a judge, before they can vote. Activists have called this a poll tax, invoking Jim Crow restrictions on voting, but the courts are still deciding the issue.
Just as there’s significant debate within the Democratic Party about the issue, there are some exceptions to the Republican opposition. Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, in August restored voting rights for people who’ve completed their felony sentences, with exceptions for homicide offenses. “The right to vote is the cornerstone of society and the free republic in which we live,” Reynolds said in a statement. “When someone serves their sentence, they should have their right to vote restored automatically.”
Part of this is a genuine philosophical question: Can someone at some point do something so terrible that they lose their right to vote? For Sanders, and many activists, the answer is no. For others, the answer is yes, though views on just how terrible the act has to be before that right is lost, and how long the right is lost for, varies from person to person.
But for Republicans, there are also clear political motivations. While the evidence on this topic is far from perfect, there’s some research indicating that restoring the right to vote for those with felony records could have a political impact. Experts Marc Meredith at the University of Pennsylvania and Michael Morse at Yale wrote for Vox:
Had all ex-felons been eligible to vote in Florida in 2016, we estimate that this would have generated about 102,000 additional votes for Democrats and about 54,000 additional votes for Republicans, with about an additional 40,000 votes that could be cast on behalf of either party.
That added up to about 48,000 votes on net for Democrats. In a state where recent Senate and gubernatorial races came down to as little as 10,000 to 30,000 votes, that could swing the whole thing.
It’s for similar reasons that Republicans have repeatedly resisted other efforts to expand voting rights in the US, particularly if they benefit minority voters who are more likely to vote for Democrats. Some Republicans have outright admitted to their political motivations. As William Wan reported for the Washington Post, regarding a Republican-backed law in North Carolina:
Longtime Republican consultant Carter Wrenn, a fixture in North Carolina politics, said the GOP’s voter fraud argument is nothing more than an excuse.
“Of course it’s political. Why else would you do it?” he said, explaining that Republicans, like any political party, want to protect their majority. While GOP lawmakers might have passed the law to suppress some voters, Wrenn said, that does not mean it was racist.
“Look, if African Americans voted overwhelmingly Republican, they would have kept early voting right where it was,” Wrenn said. “It wasn’t about discriminating against African Americans. They just ended up in the middle of it because they vote Democrat.”
The flip side is that while Republicans have generally succeeded in passing more and more voting restrictions across the country in the past decade, the trend has moved in the other direction for criminal disenfranchisement laws.
That makes these laws one of the few areas in the US in which there’s been genuine movement toward expanded voting right over the past several years.
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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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