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US lawmakers ask Khalilzad to testify on US-Taliban deal

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: A United States Congressional committee has asked US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad to appear as a witness on the US-Taliban deal which is “agreed in principle”.

In a letter to Mr. Khalilzad, which was later released to the press, Congressman Eliot Engel, who is Chairman of House Committee on Foreign Affairs, called on the State Department to stop stonewalling and to send the special representative to testify later this month.

“I am calling this hearing so that Congress and the American people will have the long-overdue opportunity to understand the contours of your negotiations with the Taliban and the potential risks and opportunities that may result,” Mr. Engel said in his letter.

He claimed that Khalilzad had not responded to his previous two requests in this regard.

“I understand your team has established a framework agreement with the Taliban, and that a copy of this agreement has been disseminated among officials in the Trump Administration and shared with President Ghani’s government,” he said.

“Similarly, the American and Afghan people deserve to know what the Administration’s diplomatic strategy is for Afghanistan. Your testimony will help inform Members and provide necessary transparency regarding the Administration’s Afghanistan strategy,” wrote Engel.

“After nearly two decades of war, we all want to see the fighting in Afghanistan come to an end. But we want to make sure we are negotiating peace and not simply a withdrawal,” he said.

He writes that “given the challenges this Committee has faced in getting information from the Trump Administration on this issue, I want to be clear: I do not consider your testimony at this hearing optional”.

Mr. Engel warned that he will consider other options if Khalilzad did not respond this time.

Based on the agreement, which needs US President Donald Trump’s approval, the US will withdraw 5,000 troops from five bases within 135 days, according to Mr. Khalilzad.

This comes as the Afghan government has shown frustration about the US-Taliban deal which is “agreed in principle” and has said that it is concerned about the consequences of the agreement. 

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