House Foreign Affairs Committee subpoenas US Taliban negotiator

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday subpoenaed the envoy who had been leading negotiations with the Taliban to testify in an open hearing next week.

Rep. Eliot Engel said he signed the subpoena for Zalmay Khalilzad after the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation and the State Department ignored “numerous requests” to testify about the peace negotiations. CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment on the subpoena.

“More than 2,000 American troops have died in Afghanistan, and I’m fed up with this Administration keeping Congress and the American people in the dark on the peace process and how we’re going to bring this long war to a close,” the New York Democrat said in a statement.

“For months, we haven’t been able to get answers on the Afghanistan peace plan, and now the President is saying the plan is dead. We need to hear directly from the Administration’s point person on Afghanistan to understand how this process went off the rails. I expect to see Ambassador Khalilzad in our hearing room next Thursday at 10 o’clock sharp,” Engel said.

The move to legally compel Khalilzad to testify in public comes after close to a year of talks with the Taliban collapsed earlier this week. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus confirmed on Thursday that Khalilzad was back in Washington after traveling to Doha and Kabul last month to try to secure a deal that could lead to the end of America’s longest-running war.

On Saturday evening, President Donald Trump unexpectedly announced that he had called off a secret meeting with the militant group and a separate meeting with the Afghan government at Camp David after the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed an American service member.

“I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations,” Trump tweeted. Trump reiterated on Wednesday that “the talks with the Taliban are dead.”

The abrupt cancellation of the covert talks on US soil came shortly after Khalilzad had announced that the two sides had reached an agreement “in principle.”

On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced support for the move, saying that Trump “made the right decision.”

“It was the case that when the Taliban tried to gain a negotiating advantage by conducting terror attacks inside the country, President Trump made the right decision” to walk away, Pompeo said. “It made no sense for the Taliban to be rewarded for that kind of bad behavior.”

Asked Thursday whether the President had directed Pompeo to tell Khalilzad to no longer engage with the Taliban, Ortagus said that “the secretary hasn’t characterized it to me that way,” but reiterated that Trump had said the talks were dead.