The chairman of a top House committee on Thursday subpoenaed the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan to testify before lawmakers next week after the State Department repeatedly failed to make the diplomat available.
The subpoena follows a collapse in peace negotiations between the Trump administration and the Afghan Taliban, and after President Donald Trump’s move to scrap a secret meeting with the Islamist militia at Camp David.
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Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad needed to appear before Congress so lawmakers and the American people could“understand how this process went off the rails.”
Engel said Khalilzad must appear before the panel on Sept. 19. The subpoena is the first Engel’s committee has issued this Congress, according to a statement from his office.
Engel warned earlier this month that he would subpoena Khalilzad if he did not appear voluntarily. According to Engel’s office, “the State Department refused requests in February, April, and earlier this month for briefings or testimony from Ambassador Khalilzad on the Afghanistan peace plan.”
His office added in a statement that “Secretary of State Pompeo also has flatly refused to make Ambassador Khalilzad available to the committee.”
“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,” Engel said in the statement.
The State Department press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did a spokesman for Khalilzad.
The veteran diplomat has spent months engaging in painstaking peace talks with the Afghan Taliban in hopes of securing a multi-part peace agreement that will also include the Afghan government.
As things got closer to an initial agreement, Trump pushed for a secret meeting with the Taliban and Afghanistan’s president at Camp David, the presidential retreat where past high-profile peace talks involving other parties have taken place.
Trump shocked Washington when he announced via Twitter over the weekend that he had decided to call off the talks, which had still been under wraps, because of a recent Taliban attack in Afghanistan that killed a U.S. soldier.
He said afterward that, as far as he was concerned, the negotiations were “dead.”
Trump’s decision this week to fire his national security adviser, John Bolton, who had opposed the talks with the Afghan militia, is fueling speculation that the president might eventually agree to resume the negotiations.