Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. US, Taliban, Reach Preliminary Peace Deal To End Afghan War Hostilities
The Trump administration’s envoy to Afghanistan said on September 2 that the US had reached a preliminary peace deal with the Taliban that will pave the way for a phased withdrawal of US military forces from Afghanistan and bring an end to America’s longest war. US negotiators have agreed to remove approximately 5,000 American troops from five bases over the next five months if the Taliban fulfills promises to reduce violence and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for terrorists, the US Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, told the news channel TOLO. The deal, the product of months of negotiations between Trump administration officials and Taliban leaders, could allow President Donald Trump to declare victory on a core campaign promise as he enters the 2020 reelection cycle.
In a series of Twitter posts, Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said he concluded negotiations with the Taliban over the weekend and then traveled to Kabul to brief Afghan leaders. An aide to Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said officials were reviewing the deal and talks were ongoing. “President Ghani … met with Amb Khalilzad today,” Waheed Omer, Afghanistan’s director-general for public and strategic affairs, said in a tweet. “We will look into the document and discussions with Amb Khalilzad and team will continue.”
The move to reduce America’s military presence in Afghanistan is fraught with political and military peril. Critics, including some of President Donald Trump’s strongest supporters, fear a US withdrawal will open the door for a resurgence of al-Qaeda, as well as other terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, such as ISIS. “There will be another 9/11 if we pull the plug,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a strong supporter of President Trump, said in a Fox News interview. Graham and others argue that the Taliban, itself is a militant fundamentalist group, cannot be trusted to keep Afghanistan free of terrorists. “Trump is repeating now the mistakes of Obama: appearing to reestablish artificial deadlines rather than matching conditions,” said James Cunningham, who served as the Ambassador to Afghanistan in President Barack Obama’s administration. While Cunningham has not seen the details of the deal, he said the emerging outline is worrisome and suggests Trump is “not using all efforts to get a genuine peace negotiation,” which would require more time than the Trump administration has invested.
It has been nearly 18 years since the US military opened a devastating bombing campaign against the Taliban forces, who were then providing sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, the perpetrator of the 9/11 Attacks. The war has claimed the lives of around 2,500 American service members and at least 38,000 Afghan civilians and has also cost US taxpayers $975 billion, according to an estimate by researchers at Brown University. Additionally, in an October 2018 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 49% of respondents said the US had “mostly failed” in achieving its goals in Afghanistan.
2. Trump Administration Announces Nearly $2 Billion In Grant Funding To Bolser Efforts To Battle Against The Opioid Epidemic
The Trump Administration announced on September 3 that it will award $1.8 billion in grant funding to state and local governments to bolster treatment and prevention efforts in the battle against the opioid epidemic. President Donald Trump formally announced the funding, secured through Congress last year, would be distributed through a pair of grant programs. “These funds will be delivered to the communities where their help is most needed,” he said at the White House. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded $932 million in state opioid response grants, which were appropriated by Congress through a sweeping legislation package in 2018, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will receive $900 million over three years to improve opioid overdose tracking and other drug-related data.
President Donald Trump, joined by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, highlighted his administration’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, which include reducing the high cost of drug prescriptions, increasing illegal drug seizures, raising awareness through national anti-drug campaigns as well as improving reporting of opioid-related deaths. “So many lives are stopped cold by drugs,” Trump said. “Whether it’s death or just a ruined life. In many cases, you have just a ruined life because of drugs. They never recover.” President Trump said the funds would be used to increase medication-assisted treatment as well as mental health services. “My administration is determined to use every resource at our disposal to smash the grip of addiction,” he said. He added his administration was spending a “great deal of money at my request” to find a non-addictive painkiller.
The $932 million will be awarded to all 50 states and several territories, ranging in “everything from expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment in criminal justice settings, or in rural areas, via telemedicine, to youth-focused, community-based prevention efforts,” Azar told reporters. The CDC is expected to award $301 million in the first year to 47 states, 16 local municipalities, the District of Columbia and two US territories. About 130 Americans die every day from drug overdoses related to opioids, according to the CDC.
3. Federal Judge Blocks Missouri’s Ban On Abortions After 8 Weeks, Signaling Pushback Against Strict State Abortion Laws By The Judiciary
A federal judge on August 27 blocked a Missouri ban on abortions after eight weeks from going into effect. “The various sections specifying prohibitions on abortions at various weeks before viability cannot be allowed to go into effect on August 28, as scheduled,” writes US District Judge Howard Sachs in an 11-page opinion. “However formulated, the legislation on its face conflicts with the Supreme Court ruling that neither legislative or judicial limits on abortion can be measured by specified weeks or development of a fetus; instead, ‘viability’ is the sole test for a State’s authority to prohibit abortions where there is no maternal health issue,” Sachs wrote. The August 27 ruling comes after two other federal judges blocked similar abortion restrictions in Arkansas and Ohio earlier this summer, as a slew of state laws looking to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling legalizing abortion nationwide, make their way through the courts.
The Missouri law in question would penalize medical professionals who perform abortions after eight weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know that they are pregnant, and well before the 24-week viability standard established by Roe, with up to 15 years in prison. The law does not include exceptions for instances of rape or incest, only for instances of “medical emergency,” such to prevent a pregnant woman’s death or “substantial and irreversible physical impairment.” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, praised the ruling and vowed to continue to fight the law in court. “Today’s decision blocks a harmful law that bans abortion before many know they’re pregnant,” she wrote in a statement. “What little abortion access in Missouri is left, will stay in place for the time being.” “Let’s be very clear: these severe restrictions on abortion access do nothing to address disability rights or discrimination,” Johnson added. “They only stigmatize abortion and shame the people who seek that care.”
Republican Governor Mike Parson praised the court decision to uphold sections of the law preventing abortions based on sex, race or Down syndrome, which are separate from the eight-week ban struck down by the judge. He said the state would continue to argue its case on the ban.
“We sent a strong message that Missouri stands for life, protection of women’s health, and advocates for the unborn with the passage and signing of HB 126,” Parson said in a statement. “We are encouraged that today’s court ruling upheld the anti-discrimination provisions of the law, and we look forward to litigating the remaining issues.” “As Governor, I am honored to lead a state that is committed to standing up for those without a voice and will continue to fight for the unborn,” he added in a Twitter statement.
4. San Francisco City Council Declares The NRA A Domestic Terror Organization In The Wake Of Mass Shootings In US
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution on September 3 that declares the National Rifle Association a “domestic terrorist organization.”After connecting the NRA to an “epidemic of gun violence” in the US, the resolution urges San Francisco to distance itself from the organization by examining local vendors’ and contractors’ ties to the NRA. It also says the local government should avoid doing business with the NRA or organizations associated with it. “The National Rifle Association spreads propaganda that misinforms and aims to deceive the public about the dangers of gun violence,” the resolution reads.
While supervisors will be examining San Francisco’s connections to the NRA, the resolution is also meant to pave the way for similar legislation at the local, state or federal level, said Supervisor Catherine Stefani. The designation of a domestic terrorist organization is justified because the NRA’s opposition to gun control is “standing in the way of saving lives,” Stefani said. She said the resolution calls the “absolutely disgraceful” organization “out for what they really are.” The resolution says 100 Americans are killed daily by gun violence, making the US’s gun homicide rate 25 times higher than any other “high-income” country. The resolution passed unanimously, according to Daniel Herzstein, a spokesperson for Stefani’s office.
The NRA condemned the resolution in a statement. “This is just another worthless and disgusting ‘soundbite remedy’ to the violence epidemic gripping our nation,” spokeswoman Amy Hunter said in an emailed response. “This is a reckless assault on a law-abiding organization, its members, and the freedoms they all stand for. We remain undeterred – guided by our values and belief in those who want to find real solutions to gun violence,” the statement says.
This is the second high-profile condemnation the NRA has issued this week. On September 3, the NRA said Walmart’s decision to stop selling certain ammunition would hurt business and “not make us any safer.”In the wake of recent mass shootings in California, Ohio and two in Texas, national attention has again grown on the issue of gun violence. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-K), has faced particular pressure to take up gun control legislation but has maintained that President Donald Trump should support legislation before the Senate considers it.