U.S. Cuts $100 Million in Aid to Afghanistan, Citing Government Corruption – The New York Times

In a closed-door hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday morning, the American diplomat who led the negotiations, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, briefed lawmakers for about an hour. It was not clear what he disclosed, or whether his explanation satisfied the panel.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the committee’s chairman, initially had issued a subpoena to compel Mr. Khalilzad to testify publicly, but ultimately backed off to allow the private briefing that included classified information.

After the briefing, Mr. Engel said it was “crystal clear” that the war would end only with a diplomatic settlement, not a military campaign, and said negotiations with the Taliban “seem abhorrent,” but are necessary.

“Believe it or not, there’s some common ground: For starters, the Taliban want our troops out of Afghanistan, and we want our troops home,” Mr. Engel said in a public hearing later Thursday.

“If there is another opportunity, even following the president’s disastrous attempts at deal-making, to forge a peace that advances American security interests, we need to consider those options,” Mr. Engel said.

That panel heard from Alice G. Wells, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, who said it was not known if the peace negotiations would resume.

The American negotiations would have cleared a way for the Taliban to deal directly with the Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, who is running for re-election in next week’s vote. The Taliban had opposed the election, saying it would prevent the militant group from immediately taking part in any power-sharing government that results from the peace process.

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