U.S. Weighs Fate of Taliban Political Office, Prompting Internal Objection

U.S. Weighs Fate of Taliban Political Office, Prompting Internal Objection by Dion Nissenbaum – Wall Street Journal

The Trump administration is considering a plan that would aim to close the Taliban political office in Qatar, a move that triggered an unusual internal protest from State Department officials who said it would undermine U.S. interests in Afghanistan, according to current and former U.S. officials.

A group of State Department specialists on South Asia filed a rare internal “dissent channel cable” on Friday to urge that the U.S. keep the Taliban office open and launch more intensive talks to end the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, according to people familiar with the move.

The internal memo was signed by a handful of officials, the people said, including some longtime State Department employees whose contracts with the department expired on Friday and weren’t renewed.

The unclassified memo to top State Department leaders urged them to keep the Taliban office open to help ensure that a serious push for peace talks isn’t put on the back burner while the U.S. sends 4,000 more U.S. forces into Afghanistan to try to break a battlefield stalemate with the Taliban.

Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman, said the department “continues to undertake and staff diplomatic initiatives in support of peace and reconciliation. Our colleagues are in close contact with Afghan and regional officials to coordinate an approach that puts pressure on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. We are committed to a strong, regional strategy.”

In the internal memo, the experts said that closing the Taliban office in Qatar could undermine President Donald Trump’s attempts to extricate the U.S. from a war that has claimed more than 3,500 American lives since 2001, according to people familiar with the move…

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