A group of more than 20 leading Republican lawmakers are warning the Trump administration against signing a landmark peace accord with the Taliban in Afghanistan, saying it would jeopardize America's national security interests.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, members of Congress led by Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) expressed their "serious concerns" about rumors the Trump administration is on the cusp of inking a peace accord with the Taliban, which the lawmakers maintain cannot be trusted to uphold the accord.
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The lawmakers, all of whom are typically aligned with the administration on national security issues, are demanding they receive assurances the administration "will not place the security of the American people into the hands of the Taliban," according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The lawmakers are also demanding the release of so-called secret annexes in the draft agreement that they claim establish a set of unknown side deals with the Taliban, a move reminiscent of the Obama administration's secret agreements with Iran when the Iran nuclear deal was being negotiated.
The Trump administration has been working for months to lay the groundwork for a landmark peace deal with the Taliban that would see American forces finally leave the country after nearly two decades of war. Afghanistan is currently in the middle of a reduction in violence agreement that has seen the Taliban and U.S. coalition forces lay down arms in the lead-up to a peace deal.
While President Donald Trump has vowed to bring American forces home from Afghanistan, those efforts have been complicated by the Taliban's continued support for terrorism. GOP critics say it is foolish to trust a group that harbored the 9/11 terrorist attackers and murdered scores of American military personnel.
"We have serious concerns about reports that the United States is preparing to sign a deal with the Taliban, the terrorists who harbored al-Qaeda before and after the attacks of 9/11," wrote the lawmakers, including Reps. Cheney, Dan Crenshaw (R., Texas), Jim Banks (R., Ind.), Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.), Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), and Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.), among others.
"Trump has a proven track record of putting America's security first and ensuring our country stays out of bad deals that aid our adversaries," the lawmakers wrote. "In keeping with this policy, we 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."
The United States "cannot rely on these terrorists to safeguard their security," the lawmakers wrote in a direct rebuke of senior U.S. officials who have been working with the Taliban to cement a deal that legitimizes its role in the Afghan government.
If America signs a deal to massively drawdown its troop presence in Afghanistan, the Taliban could use this vacuum to foment terrorism and wrench control of the country, the lawmakers maintain.
"The Taliban also has a history of extracting concessions in exchange for false assurances," the letter stated. "They will accept nothing less than a full-scale U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as they seek to establish their totalitarian ‘Islamic Emirate.' 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 are demanding the administration publicly release any secret side deals it may have reached with the Taliban.
"It is critical that any supposed counterterrorism assurances and potential verification mechanisms contained in the State Department-led agreement with the Taliban be made public," they wrote. "During the Obama administration, Secretary Pompeo rightfully fought for the disclosure of secret side deals with Iran. Now some reports claim that key parts of the accord with the Taliban may be hidden in secret annexes. The safety of the American people is inextricably linked to this deal. They deserve to know its details."
The lawmakers are also demanding a set of assurances that the United States does not partner with the Taliban on counterterrorism efforts, share intelligence with the terror group, or make unilateral decisions about the number of troops to keep in the country, and requires that the Taliban hand over any al-Qaeda terror members it may still be harboring.