Afghanistan Is Latest Dud for Deal Maker Trump

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Donald Trump touted himself as the man who could broker the big deals for the U.S. when he ran for president three years ago.

Yet, as Nick Wadhams, Glen Carey and Jennifer Jacobs explain, his love of grand personal gestures has fallen short with North Korea, China, the Middle East, and now Afghanistan.

After an attack in Kabul, he called off a secret plan to host Taliban and Afghan leaders at Camp David this weekend ahead of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The decision will likely please Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s administration, which feared a deal would leave the Taliban in a stronger position. But it was a blow to Trump’s election pledge withdraw the 14,000 U.S. troops still in the country.

It’s becoming part of a pattern: North Korea talks are stalled, Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said last week he’s stepping down, and the vaunted Israeli-Palestinian peace plan has yet to be unveiled. The U.S.-China trade war drags on.

Just over a year before he seeks re-election, the self-declared master deal maker is still looking for a breakthrough.

Global Headlines

Brexit or bust | The big question hanging over U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is how far will he go in pursuit of his “do-or-die” approach to leaving the European Union by Oct. 31. Is he willing to defy the law? Today, parliament is set to vote down his second attempt to force an early election. In Brussels, the feeling is Johnson is just playing for time, and his body language with Ireland’s Leo Varadkar at a joint new conference was not reassuring.

Subscribe to Brexit Bulletin to stay on top of the divorce talks.

Texas miracle | Texas’s booming economy is presenting the Democrats with an opportunity to win the traditionally Republican stronghold as workers who move there for energy and tech jobs are more liberal than the natives. Democrats find themselves so close to taking the state, second only to California in size and presidential electoral votes, that they’re holding the third round of 2020 primary debates for Houston on Thursday.

Read how a recession in some parts of the U.S. is menacing Trump’s re-election bid in 2020.

Tech scrutiny | The power of the Silicon Valley giants is doing what few other issues can: unite Democrats and Republicans. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said he’ll announce a multistate probe today into anti-competitive behavior by large tech companies. Facebook and Google are the main targets of a series of state, federal and Congressional investigations that may result in vast fines and demands to break up them up.

Thinning crowds | Tourist arrivals to Hong Kong declined almost 40% in August from a year earlier, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said — the biggest blow to the industry since the SARS epidemic in 2003, as protests deter visitors. His comments came after violence flared again this weekend, despite leader Carrie Lam’s biggest concession yet to protesters by withdrawing a bill allowing extraditions to China.

Ukrainian opening | A “new wind blowing in Kiev” under President Volodymyr Zelenskiy may open the chance of a breakthrough in the long-blocked peace process in Ukraine, a special representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said. A mass prisoner swap on Saturday is an “extremely important step” toward rebuilding trust after talks to end the war between Kiev and Kremlin-backed rebels broke down in 2015, Henry Meyer reports.

What to Watch

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte faces a vote of confidence today in the lower house of Parliament that he’s expected to win and another tomorrow in the Senate. Results from Russian regional elections that morphed from sleepy off-cycle votes into a referendum on President Vladimir Putin’s administration showed the Kremlin got key wins in gubernatorial contests. But angry voters delivered setbacks to the ruling party in legislative races in Moscow and other regions. Trump travels to the state of North Carolina today to tour areas affected by Hurricane Dorian and later deliver remarks at a re-election rally.

And finally … While one Iranian tanker attracted global attention when it was seized near Gibraltar, there’s a bigger mystery unfolding: the hunt for the rest of the fleet. Grant Smith writes how the vessels have mostly “gone dark” since sanctions were tightened this year, switching off transponders that would reveal their location. That’s led to ever-more inventive methods of tracking ships, and divergent views on the amounts of crude secretly slipping into world markets.​​​


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