Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Taliban sent a team to Russia after US peace talks collapsed
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The Taliban have sent a delegation to Russia to discuss prospects for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan following the collapse of talks with the United States this month, officials from the insurgent group said.
The move, days after President Donald Trump canceled a planned meeting with Taliban leaders at his Camp David retreat, came as the movement looks to bolster regional support, with visits also planned for China, Iran and Central Asian states.
"The purpose of these visits is to inform leaders of these countries about the peace talks and President Trump's decision to call off the peace process at a time when both sides had resolved all outstanding issues and were about to sign a peace agreement," said a senior Taliban leader in Qatar.
Russia, which has hosted meetings between the Taliban and Afghan political and civil society representatives, said this week it hoped that the process could be put back on track and urged both sides to resume talks.
"We are convinced that the complete end to foreign military presence is an inalienable condition of durable peace in Afghanistan," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.
However, it is unclear whether the talks can be resumed.
The Taliban leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the purpose of the visits was not to try to revive negotiations with the United States but to assess regional support for forcing it to leave Afghanistan.
U.S. and Taliban officials held months of talks in the Qatari capital of Doha and agreed a draft accord that would have seen some 5,000 U.S. troops withdrawn from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban.
However, the deal, intended as a preliminary step to a wider peace agreement, faced heavy criticism from the Afghan government, which was shut out of the talks. Many former senior U.S. officials who had worked in the region also warned a hasty withdrawal risked destabilizing the country and even plunging it back into a new round of civil war.
The draft accord did not include a ceasefire agreement and with violence continuing, Trump announced the cancellation of the Camp David meeting via Twitter after a suicide bomb attack in Kabul killed at least 12 people including a U.S. soldier.
He subsequently described the talks as dead and said U.S. forces would step up operations against the Taliban, who control more territory than at any time since they were ousted from power by a U.S.-led campaign in 2001.
Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday he and the Pentagon will comply with House Democrats' impeachment inquiry subpoena, but it'll be on their own schedule.
"We will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress," Esper said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Just in the last week or two, my general counsel sent out a note — as we typically do in these situations — to ensure documents are retained."
Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.
Roughly 1,000 U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria, leaving a residual force of between 100 and 150 service members at the Al Tanf garrison, a U.S. official said.
"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'
More than 700 women and children affiliated with ISIS escape Kurdish prison camp after Turkish shelling
BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.
Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.
Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.