Few people have had a front-row seat to the drama and danger of US-North Korea relations over the last four years. Markus Garlauskas is one of them.
As the national intelligence officer for North Korea on the US National Intelligence Council from July 2014 to June 2020, he briefed President Donald Trump and other top government officials on what was going on inside the secretive country. What did North Korean leader Kim Jong Un really want? Would he give up his nuclear weapons? And was Trump’s diplomatic effort yielding any results?
In his first extended, one-on-one interview since leaving government, Garlauskas paints a picture that’s a little different from the one widely accepted about Trump’s dealings with North Korea.
Yes, the risk of war increased in 2017, when Trump was threatening to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea in response to its weapons tests, but Washington and Pyongyang had actually come closer to military conflict in previous years. Yes, Trump and Kim left Hanoi without a nuclear deal, but the fault there lies with the dictator, not the president. And yes, the US should avoid a full-scale war with North Korea, but it shouldn’t shy away from another 2017-style confrontation.
“If Kim senses that the US is more afraid of war than he is, then he has the advantage,” Garlauskas said.
Garlauskas laid out a game plan for whoever occupies the White House next year: Get North Korea to stop testing missiles and nuclear bombs, and then develop a policy to convince Pyongyang to part with its weapons. Halting those tests will give the US the space to develop the right mix of pressure and persuasion. “Otherwise you’re just reacting to them — and then you’re in another really, really tough spot,” Garlauskas said.
Our interview, edited for length and clarity, is below.
North Korea just held a parade in which it unveiled new advanced weapons, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could potentially reach all of the US. What does this tell us about Trump’s diplomatic efforts toward North Korea over the last four years?
What it tells us is exactly what Kim said at the end of his speech, which is that time is on North Korea’s side, not on America’s side. The parade also demonstrated the ability of North Korea to continue advancing its weapons programs despite international sanctions, despite pressure. It really showed the progress they’re continuing to make in terms of their capabilities.
That portends a pretty rough upcoming four years, regardless of who is in the White House.
We’re in a very tough situation, so I think the the first step is essentially do a triage and stop the bleeding. We need to focus our efforts on preventing these new weapons systems displayed during the parade from actually being tested.
If the North Koreans are not convinced to maintain at least some restraint on weapons testing, regardless of which administration is in office next year, it will basically destroy any chance for diplomacy on favorable terms. It will be very, very difficult to say that we’re containing the threat or having any sort of a negotiation that’s advantageous to us.
Once you get past that point, if you can get North Korea to halt its testing of the more advanced systems, then it becomes possible to talk about having a different type of negotiation with North Korea. But you have to deal with it early and prevent the North Koreans from launching a new provocative test, otherwise you’re just reacting to them — and then you’re in another really, really tough spot.
Trump, of course, claims his efforts with North Korea have been successful. One of his main arguments is that he stopped a war from happening, and that if weren’t in charge the US would be in World War III.
Is there any truth to that?
This is a wickedly hard problem — across administrations, across parties — that has no easy answers. Sometimes the best you can do is avoid the situation from spinning out of control. So I think there is some validity to the idea that it could have been a lot worse during the Trump years.
However, I will tell you that I think we got much closer to war in 1994, in 2010, and in 2015 than we did in 2017. There was a very large gap between the rhetoric and the activity in 2017. And if you say we almost went to war in 2017, then you’re essentially saying the US almost started the war, because there was no sign Kim Jong Un was interested in going to war — he was testing weapons. He wasn’t striking South Korea or sinking ships.
That’s a pretty provocative statement you just made, because there was a widespread sentiment at the time in 2017 that the possibility of the US going to war with North Korea was maybe not likely, but at least much likelier than in recent years.
I’m not saying that the rhetoric was completely insignificant, but I am saying the “fire and fury” rhetoric was exaggerated in its significance in comparison to the actual, tangible actions being taken in 2017. What was more important is you saw the US exercise a great deal of restraint in terms of our military posturing.
You didn’t see the evacuation of civilians from South Korea. You didn’t see activities actually penetrating into North Korea. You didn’t see military strikes. You didn’t see a lot of things that could have been done or that would have increased the risk of a strong North Korean reaction.
I just had a conversation with retired Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, who until recently commanded US and UN troops in South Korea. It was his argument, and one that rings true to me, that some degree of military posturing was necessary to show North Korea we were serious, and that we were not going to indefinitely tolerate this level of activity.
In the end, what we did was very limited, very prudent, and it showed the North Koreans that despite what the president was saying, the US wasn’t gearing up for an attack or major regime-change operation.
But both you and I recall the reports of a considered “bloody nose” strike, and Bob Woodward’s new book features a section about the US military updating operational war plans for a fight with North Korea. These and other accounts seem to back the notion that the potential for war in 2017 really was higher than it needed to be.
There is no question that there was a heightened level of activity and preparation. But updating war plans is a very normal activity that you do on a regular basis, particularly when there are heightened tensions. It’s natural to focus on dusting those off.
The activities described in the book, in terms of what actually took place, I think those were very limited and very normal sorts of things to do when you’re dealing with a country like North Korea that, among other things, was accelerating its violations of UN Security Council resolutions.
Why, then, do you think there was so much fear of a war in 2017? I recall it feeling quite scary.
One major element is that it comes from indefinite extrapolation. If you were to just have North Korea continue on the path that it was on indefinitely, and not show any restraint — which it did in 2018 when it pivoted to diplomacy — Pyongyang was traveling along a path of escalation. And we were traveling along essentially a collision course, trying to convince the North Koreans that if they stayed on that path it was going to end in war.
I don’t want anyone to take away the idea that the risk of war was not significant. A war on the Korean Peninsula would have a very high chance of going nuclear with catastrophic consequences. There would be an unimaginable number of deaths and destruction of the international order. That would be taking place on China’s doorstep, potentially pulling Beijing into the situation.
Even a small increase in the probability of that happening was definitely a significant risk that’s worth paying attention to. But still, the chances of that happening were a very low probability.
I want to turn to the Hanoi summit, where Trump and Kim walked away without a nuclear deal. The diplomatic effort never recovered from that event, and I’m wondering, as someone who helped prepare the president for that meeting, why you think everything went off the rails in Hanoi? As you know, many people consider that summit a failure.
The failure rests, number one, on Kim Jong Un’s shoulders. He came to the table with a deal for the dismantling of a major nuclear site in exchange for near-complete sanctions relief that, objectively speaking, was a bad deal [for the US].
The president was very well informed, in part through my and my colleagues’ efforts, about what the situation was and what North Korea had and didn’t have. The president made an informed decision to refuse that deal, and Kim could not adjust and did not adjust to propose anything to entice the US. Kim came away very dissatisfied because he went in overconfident he could make the deal he wanted to make.
I think even Kim recognizes he missed an opportunity, even more than the US missed an opportunity, in Hanoi.
So you’re saying if Kim had been willing to consider anything other than his offer — perhaps offering more denuclearization or less sanctions relief — Trump and Kim might have made a deal in Hanoi?
Let’s do the counterfactual: If Kim had asked for less, or if Kim had offered more, there’s a possibility that there would’ve been an interim deal in Hanoi. But it would have required Kim to reaffirm that North Korea’s denuclearization was the end goal, which he hasn’t yet done on paper.
What’s the main takeaway for Trump or Biden from the last four years, and how should they apply it to the next four years of US-North Korea relations if president?
The number one thing is to try and replicate what we had in 2018 in terms of the halt on weapons testing. If engaging in diplomacy is the price we have to pay for that, so be it.
The longer-term issue is having to develop a narrative and approach to denuclearization that doesn’t put the US in a position where we have unrealistic, unreasonable expectations about how quickly progress can be made. It also shouldn’t put the North Koreans in a situation where they prefer to wait until the next election cycle and see how it goes.
If we are intending to see North Korea give up its entire nuclear and missile programs lock, stock, and barrel before the four years are out, then we’re basically creating a situation where it puts the onus of time on us and not on the North Koreans. They know if that’s if that’s the goal, they can keep us from getting there and hang on for a few more years.
But in the end, you don’t have much time to think about any of this, you’re just in reaction mode as long as North Korea is continuing to advance its programs with rapid testing. So if you can get a halt to the testing, then you can buy time to have that policy dialogue. If you don’t, then North Korea is driving the train, not you.
Is there something Trump got right that could be applied in another presidential term?
We have to be willing to go back to a 2017 level of confrontation. If Kim senses that the US is more afraid of war than he is, then he has the advantage.
North Korea, no matter how many weapons advances it makes, is never going to get to the point where it has the capability to win a war against the United States of America.
As long as you proceed from the premise that Kim is not crazy or suicidal — which of course I don’t proceed from because he’s a rational, cunning, intelligent man who’s really learned a lot about how to deal with the United States and how to lead this country — as long as that’s the basis, then you have to be comfortable with the idea of confronting Kim and convincing him there are military options the United States has and could use.
If we get to a point where we feel sanctions and war can’t work, then that basically puts Kim in the position where he can dictate terms, and I don’t think that’s going to get us where we need to be.
There has to be a willingness to confront Kim militarily — not to initiate war, not to do a bloody nose strike, but basically to make it clear to him that there are limits to what we will tolerate. And we need to make clear that if he crosses into initiating a war, the outcome will be the end of him and his regime. That’s one of the things President Trump said differently than I would have said it, but it needed to be said, frankly, in 2017.
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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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