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What We're Watching: Afghan peace talks, Israel-Bahrain normalize ties, Peruvian president impeached

Afghanistan peace talks kick off: Months of political wrangling and impasse dashed hopes of reconciliation in Afghanistan, but now expectations have risen again after historic intra-Afghan peace talks kicked off Saturday in Doha, the Qatari capital. These direct negotiations — the parameters of which were set out by the Taliban and the US government earlier this year — symbolize the first time the Afghan government and the Taliban are sitting down face-to-face since the US invasion two decades ago, in the hopes of establishing a power-sharing arrangement to end decades of violence. The Taliban, which subscribe to an extreme Islamic political ideology, have long deemed the US-bolstered Afghan government as illegitimate. But now, in showing a willingness to engage directly, the Taliban are offering the Afghan people — 90 percent of whom live below the poverty line — a (small) glimmer of home regarding the prospect of reconciliation. Still, divisions persist between the two sides on major issues including the role of religion in society, women and minority rights, and ongoing insurgent violence. Complicating matters further, this all comes as the Trump administration says it will withdraw thousands of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan by November.

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Why is Mike Pompeo in the Middle East?

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on a very important mission right now. This week he is visiting four countries in the Middle East and Africa. Two of them, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, have recently moved to normalize ties in a historic deal recently brokered by the Trump administration. The other two — Sudan and Bahrain — are rumored to be looking at forming closer ties with Jerusalem as well.

What is it that each country involved wants out of Pompeo's trip? Is this really just about building a united Israeli-Arab front against Iran or are there other interests at work? Here's a look at the key players.

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