Mariusz Wiecheć last visited his home country of Poland in September 2019, and in hindsight, he regrets staying for only a week. It was barely enough time to adjust his sleep schedule and catch up with family and old friends, but Wiecheć was resigned, he said, to the fact that “America doesn’t have enough vacation days.” Like many others, he hadn’t accounted for a dangerous virus that would send the world into lockdown and keep him from his family for nearly a year.
Six months into the pandemic, Wiecheć, who lives in Philadelphia and holds an American green card, leaped at the first chance to return to Poland. Airlines began to offer limited direct flights from New York in August, and Poland was no longer requiring citizens and their families to undergo a strict quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
“I’ve realized the importance of family and being home,” Wiecheć said in a phone interview in early September. “I miss the culture in Europe, and while I’m used to some aspects of American culture, I will always be Polish at heart.” An eight-hour international flight, then, was a risk he was willing to take: Later that month, he and his wife geared up in medical-grade masks, landed in Warsaw, got tested, and quarantined from family members until their results came through.
The isolating nature of the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated many people’s desires for comfort and human connection — impulses that are strongly affiliated with home and family and are likely to grow as the holidays approach. “People are getting frustrated and tired of having this basic human need — of social interaction and contact with others — suppressed and hindered,” said Michael Brein, a psychologist who specializes in travel. “In some cases, they’re becoming less vigilant and a little more careless because Covid has been going on for so long.”
And in other cases, such as Wiecheć’s, travelers simply want to head home safely. Many people live and work hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from immediate family members, and in the absence of clear directives from the government and health experts, some find themselves playing a fraught game of risk roulette. For Wiecheć and others who spoke to Vox, it has resulted in an elaborate process of quarantining and testing and hoping and worrying, all of which still seems worth it when compared to the alternative.
As we approach the colder months, public health experts are raising alarms over the likelihood of another surge of infections as people cozy up indoors instead of gathering in parks or other outdoor spaces. But there’s another reason experts and the general public are worrying about the wintertime: holiday travel. An uptick in both car and plane trips during the weekends of Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day serves as a hint of what’s to come in November and December, months in which millions of Americans traditionally congregate with their loved ones. In 2019, the top leisure activity for domestic US travelers was visiting relatives, according to the US Travel Association, and that urge to visit friends and family will likely persist through 2020.
The coronavirus has derailed events, from adolescent milestones to weddings to funerals, but will Americans give up treasured end-of-year traditions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve? Across the country, large family gatherings — even those attended by relatives in the same town or county — have unwittingly turned into superspreader events, with one North Carolina party infecting 41 people from nine different families, the Charlotte Observer reported. Infectious disease experts have warned that intra-household spread is a key component in Covid-19’s transmission, despite any social distancing measures in place.
This added layer of risk among loved ones is something homebound travelers are trying to assess. Some are avoiding enclosed spaces with strangers entirely, even as airlines slash holiday airfare prices to make them cheaper than in years past. Road trips are now considered an attractive alternative: Drivers can plan for pit stops ahead of time and, if it’s a short drive, can completely avoid human contact on the road.
Christian Grand and his wife Alex, both of whom are in their early 30s, used to fly to California about 12 times a year because they have a large network of family and friends in the state. In June, they took a 1,000-mile car ride from Portland, Oregon, to Orange County, California, routing through a national park to briefly sightsee and avoid traffic.
“It’s not sustainable to stay indoors and isolate with your immediate family for months,” Grand said. “My wife Alex and I realized we needed to see our family, while taking precautions to not expose ourselves to unnecessary risk.”
They aren’t sure whether they’ll be taking any more California-bound trips this year, although the couple does feel the urge to be with family. “I have a really special place in my heart for California, although we’ve lived in Portland for seven years and have a home here,” Grand said. “As far as which one we identify as our real home, well, I couldn’t tell you.”
The Grands’ June gathering, which occurred before California’s summer spike in cases, was relatively small and consisted only of two couples and two kids, all of whom had been seriously self-isolating. “My wife doesn’t even like being around strangers at a national park, whether they are 6 feet away or not,” Grand said. “She’s just not comfortable being around people at all, and that’s our biggest challenge to navigate.”
The two set certain social boundaries ahead of time, including not going out to eat or closely interacting with others beyond their six-person cluster. While that meant they weren’t able to see extended family, the visit was much needed and satisfied a social itch, according to Grand.
“We are in much better spirits, which is why we chose to go,” he said. “But even before Covid, we’ve always prioritized going places and seeing our loved ones whenever we have the opportunity. So we accepted early on that this year was going to be different.”
For some, it’s not the lure of a getaway but necessity that has them accepting the risk and hitting the road. Anjella Jensen did not expect to head to Oregon for her first pandemic road trip. Nor did she expect 10 other extended family members to similarly make the trek. In late August, the South Dakota resident and her longtime boyfriend took a trip after receiving news that a relative had a terminal medical diagnosis. “We had family come from all over the country: Nashville, Florida, Oregon, South Dakota,” she told Vox. “Most of them flew or were close enough to drive, but we drove and stayed a week.”
Some attendees were elderly or immunocompromised. Jensen had been isolating with her partner before the drive, packing coolers and food to limit their exposure on the road. As a seasoned traveler, Jensen prefers driving, but her brother is planning to fly to South Dakota from Alabama later this year, and both of her older parents have flown during the pandemic as well.
“Confined space in an airplane personally makes me very nervous, although my family seems to be much more comfortable with it than I am,” Jensen said. “However, I’m much less concerned or cautious when it comes to family gatherings or individuals. There isn’t a logical reason for it, but that’s where I find myself.”
This natural familial comfort — a feeling that encourages people to let their guard down — could be a contributing factor to local outbreaks from family gatherings. But Jensen’s situation reveals how certain events, like a terminal diagnosis, could lead individuals to reassess their own risk tolerance when it comes to traveling vast distances to physically be near their loved ones.
For Jensen and her family, it has been impossible to plan travel months ahead of time anyway, given the uncertain nature of Covid-19 in the US. While they aren’t exactly packing their bags and leaving at a moment’s notice, shortening the planning time to a week or two has provided time to self-isolate, factor in current infection rates, and iron out the logistics of potentially receiving a Covid-19 test prior to or after the trip.
Jensen has begun to plan three road trips before the end of the year: to Daytona, Florida, in October to see her 20-year-old son; to Nashville for Thanksgiving with her boyfriend’s family; and to Salt Lake City in December with her 70-year-old dad. Traveling by car gives her flexibility since Jensen can decide at the last minute to forgo a trip — but, she says, it isn’t likely she’ll miss Thanksgiving or a chance to see her dad, “who is insistent on skiing this year.”
“No, I don’t want to get Covid. Who does?” Jensen told me. But the potential to get the disease, she said, is still present whether she stays home or travels. “I am more concerned with being self-contained while I travel to minimize my risk of exposure.”
There are others who might have to make a trek at the holidays: college students who were lured back to campus will be returning home. Families will host get-togethers in spite of the health precautions around mass gatherings, although probably with a shorter guest list and some Zoom participants. Some worry that students coming home from college towns, which have become Covid-19 epicenters, could drive up infections.
“My school isn’t monitoring us at all. People come and go every day if they want,” said Lauryn Craine, a junior at Missouri Valley College. Craine, who is from Chicago, filed a special request in September to ask administrators if she could study remotely. Since she was worried about the college’s handling of Covid-19 outbreaks, Craine knew home would be a safer environment for her to focus and remain for the rest of the academic year.
Last month, she drove the seven hours home to stay with her mother, who is considered high-risk, and quarantined in her room. The risk felt necessary for Craine, who said her mental and physical health were in decline living in an on-campus dorm with four other housemates.
“Traveling was stressful, but I only stopped once for gas to limit my interaction,” added Craine, who will be staying at home for the rest of the school year. “I believe it’s highly likely people will spread Covid back to their hometowns. Since people are already not caring on my campus, they probably won’t care and fly or drive home and spread it.”
Individuals who have been dutifully self-isolating like Craine are mindful of the risks involved in a trip and how to minimize them: Stay at contactless hotels, eat at drive-thrus, avoid crowded pit stops. A handful of these careful travelers also plan to fly. Some say it’s more of a “now or never” moment, according to Wiecheć, the Polish citizen. For those who live thousands of miles away, a plane ride is not only efficient; it also allows one to limit the number of interactions with strangers.
When Wiecheć heard the news that Poland had lifted its quarantine restrictions, he immediately thought to book a flight, although he didn’t tell his family until the logistics were ironed out. He didn’t want to get their hopes up if the trip had to be canceled.
“I am of the mindset that we have to live in the moment, but I think we have to learn how to live with Covid for the next few months or the next couple of years,” Wiecheć said. “I might not be able to hug my mom at the airport right away, but I know I can do that after a week of getting tested.”
Terry Nguyen is a reporter covering consumer and internet trends at The Goods by Vox. She has previously reported for the Washington Post, Chronicle of Higher Education, and Vice.
Millions turn to Vox each month to understand what’s happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
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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