Peace In Afghanistan?

This week, the Trump administration began the latest round of negotiations with the Taliban intended to bring an end to the 17-year long war in Afghanistan. The work of the US envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, was abruptly upended last month when President Trump announced the intended withdrawal of about half of the 14,000 US troops still serving there. A spectacular attack by the Taliban on Afghan intelligence services earlier this week that killed more than 100 people didn't help.



But then yesterday, after months of diplomacy, there was a potential breakthrough, when the Taliban promised not to support militant groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS operating within the country's borders – a concession the US sees as important for guaranteeing the country doesn't once again become a haven for attacks against its citizens.

Is the longest war in US history coming to an end? Here's a few thoughts from your Friday author and special contributor Adam Pourahmadi on why we should be skeptical:

  • The Taliban: The latest attack by the Taliban proves that it's bargaining from a position of growing strength. Its leaders say they won't negotiate with the Afghan government until the US agrees its troops will leave the country and releases Taliban prisoners.
  • The US: President Trump doesn't like negotiating with those who have leverage, and he's very unlikely to order a troop withdrawal while the Taliban is on the attack. Nor is he likely to accept a deal that depends heavily on the Taliban keeping its promise that Afghanistan won't once again become a terrorist training ground. Particularly since the Taliban wants post-war Afghanistan to become an Islamic Emirate.
  • The Afghan government: There will be no lasting peace in Afghanistan until there's a sustainable balance of power between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Today, government control extends to just 56 percent of the country's territory, down from 72 percent in 2005. For now, the government in Kabul is not part of the talks, and the withdrawal of US troops would only weaken its negotiating position.
  • The Wildcard: Finally, it's not clear that the Taliban in the room with Khalilzad and those who carried out the latest attack are on the same team. The Taliban has factions, and it's not clear who can speak for all of them.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said that NATO was experiencing "brain death," citing a lack of coordination and America's fickleness under Donald Trump as reasons to doubt the alliance's commitment to mutual defense. NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – was formed in the wake of World War II as a counterweight against Soviet dominance in Europe and beyond. Its cornerstone is that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. But disagreement about burden sharing has gained increasing salience in recent years. In 2014, the bloc agreed that each member state would increase their own defense spending to 2% of their respective GDP over the next decade. But so far, only seven of 29 members have forked out the money. Here's a look at who pays what.

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israel launched a precision attack in the Gaza Strip, targeting and killing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander. In response, the terror group fired more than 200 rockets at southern Israel. Exchanges of fire have brought cities on both sides of the Gaza border to a standstill and at least eight Palestinians are dead and dozens of Israelis wounded. With this latest escalation, Israel now faces national security crises on multiple fronts. Here's what's going on:

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More Brexit shenanigans: Britons this week saw Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson endorse Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in upcoming elections. As a special bonus, they got to see Corbyn return the favo(u)r with a formal endorsement of Johnson. Most viewers in the UK will have understood immediately that these are the latest example of "deep fakes," digitally manipulated video images. The more important Brexit story this week is a pledge by Nigel Farage that his Brexit Party will not run candidates in areas held by the Conservatives in upcoming national elections. That's a boost for Johnson, because it frees his party from having to compete for support from pro-Brexit voters in those constituencies.

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80: More than 80 percent of the electronic voting systems currently used in the US are made by just three companies, according to a new report which warns that they are regulated less effectively than "colored pencils."

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