Cheney, House Republicans express ‘serious concerns’ with US-Taliban deal
Twenty-two House Republicans are expressing “serious concerns” about the Trump administration’s plans to sign a peace deal with the Taliban this weekend.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the lawmakers said they are “seeking assurances that you will not place the security of the American people into the hands of the Taliban, and undermine our ally, the current government of Afghanistan.”
“President Trump has taken crucial action to keep our nation safe, including eliminating the world’s most dangerous terrorists and destroying the ISIS caliphate. He knows a bad deal when he sees one,” the Republicans wrote in the letter, which says at the bottom that a copy was also sent to Trump.
“We urge you not to commit America to a dangerous deal with the Taliban that would abandon the President’s track record of strengthening America and putting our security and interests first,” the lawmakers added.
The letter was organized by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican and a fierce defense hawk whose father is former Vice President Dick Cheney.
It comes as U.S. officials have said a seven-day partial truce is working. The so-called “reduction in violence” period, which started last Saturday, is meant as a confidence-building measure ahead of the United States and Taliban signing a broader deal that would start a gradual U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in exchange for assurances from the insurgents they would cut ties with al Qaeda.
The agreement would also kick-start intra-Afghan negotiations, seen as vital to achieving a real peace in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday the reduction in violence was “imperfect, but it’s working.” He added the United States would sign the deal with the Taliban “on or about” this coming Saturday “if and only if” the partial truce holds.
Meanwhile, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s acting defense minister walked around Kabul without body armor Wednesday to highlight the relative peace, according to The Washington Post.
But in their letter, dated Wednesday, the 22 Republicans warned the Taliban “has a history of extracting concessions in exchange for false assurances.”
“They will accept nothing less than a full-scale U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as they seek to establish their totalitarian ‘Islamic Emirate,’ ” the lawmakers wrote. “Our withdrawal would then allow terrorist groups in Afghanistan to grow stronger and establish safe havens from which to plot attacks against us. Any promises the Taliban may have made to the U.S. related to counterterrorism cannot be trusted, not least because the group is a long-time ally of al-Qaeda.”
The lawmakers stressed that “any supposed counterterrorism assurances and potential verification mechanisms” must “be made public.” Time reported earlier this month the deal would include four “secret annexes.”
“The safety of the American people is inextricably linked to this deal. They deserve to know its details,” the letter said.
The letter also highlighted that when he was a congressman, Pompeo “rightfully fought for the disclosure of secret side deals” in the Iran nuclear deal. Iran hardliners such as Pompeo railed against agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency as “secret side deals” in the Obama administration-negotiated Iran nuclear deal.
The lawmakers specifically ask for assurances that the U.S.-Taliban deal be made public without any secret annexes, that Trump administration will not be “pretending that the Taliban is a reliable counter-terrorism partner” and that a deal not commit to a full U.S. troop withdrawal.
They also asked that a deal require the Taliban to turn over al Qaeda leaders and operatives in Taliban territory, that sanctions against the Haqqani network stay in place, that there be not “uneven or premature” release of Taliban prisoners and that there be no joint counterterrorism center with the Taliban, which they said, “would be a farce and put American lives at risk.”