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Amer­ica to re­con­sider Tal­iban deal, re­verse im­mi­gra­tion plan

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WASHINGTON: The Bi­den ad­min­is­tra­tion said it will re­view a land­mark US deal with the Tal­iban, fo­cus­ing on whether the in­sur­gent group has re­duced at­acks in Afghanista­n, in keep­ing with its side of the agree­ment.

Washington struck a deal with the Tal­iban in Qatar last year, to be­gin with­draw­ing its troops in re­turn for se­cu­rity guar­an­tees from the mil­i­tants and a com­mit­ment to kick­start peace talks with the Afghan gov­ern­ment.

But vi­o­lence across Afghanista­n has surged de­spite the two sides en­gag­ing in those talks since Septem­ber.

Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den’s newly ap­pointed na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor, Jake Sul­li­van, spoke with his Afghan coun­ter­part Ham­dul­lah Mo­hib and “made clear the United States’ in­ten­tion to re­view” the deal, said Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil spokes­woman Emily Horne late Fri­day.

Specif­i­cally, Washington wants to check that the Tal­iban is “liv­ing up to its com­mit­ments to cut ties with ter­ror­ist groups, to re­duce vi­o­lence in Afghanista­n, and to en­gage in mean­ing­ful ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Afghan gov­ern­ment and other stake­hold­ers,” her state­ment con­tin­ued.

Washington’s move was met with a sigh of re­lief from of­fi­cials in Kabul ater months of spec­u­la­tion over how the new ad­min­is­tra­tion would po­ten­tially re­cal­i­brate the Afghan pol­icy. Mo­hib, the Afghan na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor, tweeted that dur­ing the call the two sides “agreed to work to­ward a per­ma­nent cease­fire and a just and durable peace” in the coun­try.

An­other top Afghan gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial lam­basted the Tal­iban’s fail­ure to live up to the Fe­bru­ary 2020 deal, say­ing the agree­ment had failed to achieve its stated goals.

The United States also plans to re­verse the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “dra­co­nian” im­mi­gra­tion ap­proach while work­ing on poli­cies ad­dress­ing the causes of mi­gra­tion, Bi­den told his Mex­i­can coun­ter­part, the White House said on Satur­day.

In a Fri­day call with Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent An­drés Manuel López Obrador, Bi­den out­lined his plan to cre­ate new le­gal path­ways for im­mi­gra­tion and im­prove the process for peo­ple re­quest­ing asy­lum, ac­cord­ing to an ac­count of the call re­leased by the White House.

Pri­or­i­ties in­clude “re­vers­ing the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion’s dra­co­nian im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies,” the White House said.

The two lead­ers agreed to work to­gether to­wards re­duc­ing “ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion,” the White House re­lease said.

The US Cen­sus Bureau is sus­pend­ing ef­forts to cre­ate neigh­bour­hood-level sta­tis­tics on the cit­i­zen­ship and age of res­i­dents, us­ing 2020 cen­sus data, in the lat­est roll­back of Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion cen­sus-re­lated ini­tia­tives that crit­ics feared would be used to favour Repub­li­cans and whites dur­ing the draw­ing of state and lo­cal dis­tricts.

As part of an or­der Bi­den signed on Wed­nes­day on the 2020 cen­sus, the Cen­sus Bureau said Fri­day that it would dis­con­tinue ef­forts to cre­ate cit­i­zen­ship tab­u­la­tions at the city-block level us­ing 2020 cen­sus data com­bined with ad­min­is­tra­tive records.

Among his first acts as pres­i­dent, Bi­den’s or­der re­voked two Trump di­rec­tives re­lated to the 2020 cen­sus. The first atempted to dis­cern the cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus of ev­ery U.S. res­i­dent through ad­min­is­tra­tive records, and the sec­ond sought to ex­clude peo­ple in the US il­le­gally from the num­bers used for ap­por­tion­ing con­gres­sional seats among the states.

Mean­while, in his first call to a for­eign leader as US Pres­i­dent, Bi­den spoke with Cana­dian coun­ter­part Justin Trudeau on Fri­day on a num­ber of top­ics and made plans to con­tinue the con­ver­sa­tion next month, Otawa and Washington said in sep­a­rate state­ments.

Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, which Canada said lasted ap­prox­i­mately 30 min­utes, the two lead­ers cov­ere­de­v­ery­thingfromt­heco­ro­n­avirus­pan­demic, which has led to the clo­sure of the Us-canada bor­der since March, to en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

Bi­den has also di­rected law en­force­ment and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials in his ad­min­is­tra­tion to study the threat of do­mes­tic vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism in the United States, an un­der­tak­ing be­ing launched weeks ater a mob of in­sur­gents loyal to Trump stormed the US Capi­tol.

The an­nounce­ment on Fri­day by White House press sec­re­tary Jen Psaki is a stark ac­knowl­edg­ment of the na­tional se­cu­rity threat that of­fi­cials see as posed by Amer­i­can ex­trem­ists mo­ti­vated to vi­o­lence by rad­i­cal ide­ol­ogy. The in­volve­ment of the na­tional in­tel­li­gence of­fice, cre­ated ater the Sept.11, 2001, at­acks with a goal of thwart­ing in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism, sug­gests US au­thor­i­ties are ex­am­in­ing how to pivot to a more con­certed fo­cus on vi­o­lence from ex­trem­ists at home.

The threat as­sess­ment is be­ing co­or­di­nated by the Of­fice of the Direc­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence, the FBI and the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, and will be used as a foun­da­tion to de­velop pol­icy, the White House said. The Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil will do its own pol­icy re­view to see how in­for­ma­tion about the prob­lem can be beter shared across the gov­ern­ment.

Asked whether new meth­ods were needed, she said: “More needs to be done. That’s why the pres­i­dent is task­ing the na­tional se­cu­rity team to do ex­actly this re­view on the sec­ond full day in of­fice.”

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