- President Trump tweeted Saturday that he canceled secretly scheduled peace negotiations with the Taliban.
- The proposed peace deal involved the U.S. taking troops out of Afghanistan and the Taliban promising to no longer engage in violence in areas where the U.S. military is present.
- Many opposed the plan and the meeting, including officials in the Trump administration who worried the Taliban could not be trusted.
- Afghan officials were also skeptical of the plan, arguing that it did not include input from the Afghan government and did not require the Taliban to stop attacks on Afghan civilians or the Afghan military.
President Donald Trump announced in a series of tweets on Saturday that he had canceled a secret meeting between U.S. officials and the Taliban.
“Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday” the president wrote on Twitter.
“Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people,” he continued. “I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations.”
“If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway,” he concluded.
….an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations. What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2019
….only made it worse! If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway. How many more decades are they willing to fight?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2019
Here’s what you need to know about the agreement, the talks, and what comes next.
Under the agreement, which officials have been negotiating for almost a year, the U.S. would remove 5,400 of the remaining 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan within 135 days.
The broader goal of the deal would be to gradually withdraw the entire U.S. military presence, which has been in the country for nearly 18 years since the 9/11 attacks. In exchange for the U.S. withdrawing the troops, the Taliban would stop enacting and supporting violence in the regions of Afghanistan where the U.S. military is based.
Last Monday, the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad told local media in the country that both sides had agreed to the deal “in principle.”
However, many people in the Afghan government, including President Ashraf Ghani, were skeptical of both the peace deal and the meeting at Camp David.
Afghan critics of the agreement argued that it did not include input from the Afghan government and did not really give them a seat at the table for negotiations.
The Trump administration addressed this concern by arguing that its talks with the Taliban would pave the way for the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government.
But others worried that plan was problematic because the Taliban does not recognize the Afghan government, and has refused to negotiate with them in the past.
Those critical of the plan also argued that the deal only protected American troops because it did not require the Taliban to stop attacks on Afghan civilians or the Afghan military.
That is especially important because the Taliban now controls more territory in the country than it has at any time since the war started, and also because the Taliban has carried out and supported numerous deadly attacks over the last few months.
Now, Afghan officials are worried that if the U.S. pulled out, it would create a sort of security vacuum, leaving the Afghan military to fend for itself. They fear that, as a result, the Taliban would not only launch more violent attacks but also try to take over the government.
Opposition In Trump Administration
Afghan officials were not the only people who opposed the negotiations.
According to reports, multiple high-ranking officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton, also did not support the meeting.
Bolton, among others, allegedly did not believe that the Taliban could be trusted and so the deal would just collapse anyway.
Other administration officials who did not want the meeting reportedly worried about the optics of having an unprecedented meeting with a militant group on U.S. soil just days before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
One senior administration official also told NBC that Pence had argued the meeting could also send a bad message to members of the U.S. military and their families, especially those who had fought and been killed by the Taliban.
Taliban & Afghan Government Responds
After Trump’s tweets, a leader from the Taliban told NBC they were caught off guard by the news.
“It not only shocked us it made us realize the people we were talking with were not sincere in peace talks,” the leader said.
On Sunday, the Taliban also released an official statement on the matter.
“Such a reaction towards a single attack just before the signing of an agreement displays lack of composure and experience,” the statement read.
“We called for dialogue twenty years earlier and maintain the same stance today and believe America shall return to this position also,” it continued. “Our previous eighteen-year resistance should have proven to America that we will accept nothing less than the complete end of occupation and allowing Afghans to decide their own fate.”
President Ghani has not responded specifically to Trump’s tweets, but his office released a formal statement on Sunday.
“The people and the government of Afghanistan pursue a dignified and sustainable peace and are committed to putting any effort into ensuring peace in the country,” it said. “We have consistently stressed that genuine peace is possible when the Taliban stop the killing of Afghans, embrace an inclusive ceasefire, and enter into direct negotiations with the Afghan government.”
“The government of Afghanistan praises the earnest efforts of its allies and is committed to working together with the United States and other partners to ensure honorable and enduring peace in the country,” the statement continued.
Conflicts on Cancelation Reasons
While speaking to news outlets Sunday night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Trump’s comments by insisting that the reason the negotiations were canceled was because of the most recent Taliban attack.
However, a report from The New York Times suggested there could have been other factors. Citing Pompeo’s negotiator, the Times said the Taliban wanted to go to Washington, but not until after their deal had been announced.
Trump, however, did not want their visit to be a celebration of the deal, instead, he “wanted to be the dealmaker who would put the final parts together himself, or at least be perceived to be.”
The breakdown of peace talks with the Taliban has left many wondering what comes next.
During Pompeo’s major news circuit Sunday, he provided some insight into that question. When asked by a Fox News anchor if Afghan talks were dead, Pompeo responded, “For the time being they are.”
However, he also told CNN that the U.S. is still interested in striking a deal, as long as the Taliban honors its commitments.
Right now for the U.S., it looks like it has three main options. It could try to come to the table with another deal, it could withdraw the troops without concessions from the Taliban, or the U.S. could just keep the troops in Afghanistan.
As for Afghanistan, it is set to have elections later this month, on September 28.
The Taliban does not want those elections to take place, and now, officials in both the U.S. and Afghanistan are concerned that the Taliban will have more incentive to ramp up their violent attacks as the election approaches.
200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing
The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16.
Children Missing From Hotels
There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.
When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.
In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.
Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.
Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”
Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing.
However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.” The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.”
Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline.
The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)
100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”
The NHS Grinds to a Halt
Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.
The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.
Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.
When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.
Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.
In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”
Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.
The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.
During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.
Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament
Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.
“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”
“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”
Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”
Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”
“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”
While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.
Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.
If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.
Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)
Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”
One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.
Epic Games Sued
A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.
The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years.
If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case.
Epic Games Responds
“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.”
Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.
The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children.
“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.”