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US-Taliban peace talks inch toward a resolution; Justin Trudeau’s reelection prospects are in doubt amid scandal.
Will Trump withdraw troops from Afghanistan?
- The possibility of the US pulling its troops out of Afghanistan seems more and more plausible by the day. [The Hill / Rebecca Kheel]
- Today President Donald Trump met with his top national security advisers to review the peace plan that is being negotiated with the Taliban. It has previously been reported that Trump wants to pull out all troops before the 2020 November elections. [Reuters / Steve Holland and Jonathan Landay]
- The White House has tried to quell expectations, emphasizing that the Friday meeting likely will not lead to any decisions. It does, however, signal how much closer things are than in the past to possibly end the longest US war. [Washington Post / Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan, Anne Gearan, and Philip Rucker]
- Negotiators have been working for months to reach a deal on ending the conflict. In exchange for an initial withdrawal of about 5,000 of 14,000 US troops, the Taliban would agree to renounce al-Qaeda and pledge their commitment to counterterrorism efforts. [Washington Post / Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan, Anne Gearan, and Philip Rucker]
- The deal isn’t perfect: The Taliban will most likely only commit to ceasing fire on US troops and not the Afghan people and military, and even throughout its negotiations with the US, it has continued to attack Afghan civilians. The Taliban does not recognize the US-backed Afghan government, which has minimally been involved in the talks between the US and the Taliban. [CNN / Kylie Atwood and Nick Paton Walsh]
- The possibility of a deal has already attracted a lot of high-profile opposition: Several lawmakers and retired generals have expressed their concern that a withdrawal would simply lead to a full-blown civil war and the “re-establishment of a terrorist sanctuary.” [WSJ / David Petraeus and Vance Serchuk]
- Depending on how the US negotiates, talks could help mitigate violence and instability in the country — or make things worse. Which outcome will play out remains to be seen. [Foreign Policy / Laurel Miller]
Justin Trudeau’s road to reelection looks bumpy
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ethics scandal is in the news again, two months from the next election. [NBC News / Yuliya Talmazan]
- In February, Trudeau was embroiled in the biggest political scandal of his career: He was accused of pushing the then-minister of justice and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to drop criminal corruption charges against SNC-Lavalin, an engineering company that is based in Quebec. [Washington Post / Amanda Coletta]
- The charges were not dropped, and Wilson-Raybould was demoted. Although shifts in the cabinet aren’t unusual, it wasn’t a good look for Trudeau after the scandal broke, especially because Wilson-Raybould was the first indigenous woman to hold the position. [Vox / Jen Kirby]
- On Wednesday, the country’s ethics watchdog released a 63-page report that provided new details on Trudeau’s conduct, reaffirming that the prime minister improperly pressured Wilson-Raybould. [Reuters / Steve Scherer]
- Trudeau, however, refuses to apologize. Thousands of Canadians could lose their jobs if SNC-Lavalin were prosecuted, and he said it was his role as prime minister to look out for the interests of his people. [Globe and Mail / Kathryn Blaze Baum, Ian Bailey, Ian Brown, and Michelle Zilio]
- The scandal is a major hit to Trudeau’s progressive, positive image. With only two months until the next election, Conservatives — the main opposition party — are seizing this as an opportunity to attack Trudeau and are calling for a criminal investigation. [Vox / Jen Kirby]
- Trudeau has disappointed a lot of voters who now see no difference between his government and past administrations. Whether it will be enough to tank his reelection will be determined when voters go to the polls in October. [NYT / Ian Austen]
- President Trump wants to buy Greenland. It’s not for sale. [WSJ / Vivian Salama, Rebecca Ballhaus, Andrew Restuccia, and Michael C. Bender]
- One of the largest far-right protests since Trump’s inauguration is planned for Portland, Oregon, this weekend, and people are fearing a violent clash between the protesters and anti-fascist groups. The FBI and Oregon state police have already announced they will assist local police. [Guardian / Jason Wilson]
- Cannabis might have been legalized in California, but licensed businesses are still overshadowed by an illegal market filled with bargains. Experts estimate $3 is spent in illicit markets for every $1 in the legal one. [AP / Michael R. Blood]
- People are calling for a boycott of the Disney live-action movie Mulan after the movie’s female lead Liu Yifei expressed her support for a police crackdown in Hong Kong. [NYT / Daniel Victor]
- Behold: pumpkin spice Spam. And it’s only August. [CNN / Scottie Andrew]
“He’s gone from new and fresh to looking callow and like an old-time politician. People know now that he’s a boss who wants to get his way and he’ll push people around to do it.” [Peter Loewen, professor of political science at the University of Toronto, on how Justin Trudeau is seen following his political scandal]