Democratic leadership in the House blocked a GOP-led measure to sanction trade between the Taliban and China, with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee citing opposition to any move that could anger the Afghan terror group, according to congressional sources briefed on the matter.
House Republicans tried to attach an amendment to the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, the sprawling annual defense-funding bill, that would sanction any person or business that attempts to work with the Taliban to purchase rare earth minerals, a lucrative natural resource coveted by China and used to power most modern electronics. The Communist regime has used the American exit from Afghanistan to boost its presence in the war-torn country, in part to gain access to its natural resources, which are valued at anywhere from $1 to $3 trillion.
The GOP measure was rejected last week by Democrats on the House Rules Committee and by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Gregory Meeks (D., N.Y.). According to congressional sources briefed on the matter, Meeks's staff cited concerns about any legislation that could provoke the Taliban. Meeks's office said it is concerned that any additional sanctions that target the Taliban could complicate ongoing efforts to rescue Americans still stranded in war-torn Afghanistan. Meeks aides also said that sanctioning the Taliban will push them to sell illegal drugs, which GOP sources say the terror group will do and is doing anyway.
Republicans will reintroduce the measure on Tuesday as a standalone bill in a bid to force Democrats into voting on a measure that will increase pressure on the Taliban, according to congressional sources familiar with the matter. GOP leaders say China's increased focus on Afghanistan poses a national security risk, particularly as it seeks to work with Taliban leaders to export precious materials that U.S. companies will end up buying.
"House Democrats proved once again that they are unwilling to compromise with Republicans by blocking my amendments to the [National Defense Authorization Act]," Rep. Greg Steube (R., Fla.), who is spearheading the measure, told the Washington Free Beacon. "It's outrageous that Democrats would not even allow a vote on something so commonsense as banning the Taliban and China from profiting off of rare earth minerals. Pretty soon Americans will be carrying around products with rare earth minerals sourced from the Taliban due to the reckless policies of the left."
The measure is part of a larger effort by the Republican Study Committee, the largest GOP caucus in Congress, to block the Taliban's access to cash resources and stop the group from aligning itself with malign regimes, such as China, Russia, and Iran.
"The Taliban's control of these minerals likely now makes it the wealthiest terrorist organization in the world," the Republican Study Committee wrote Tuesday in a private memorandum sent to 154 GOP offices, according to a copy obtained by the Free Beacon. "Unless conservatives in Congress act quickly to limit the damage done by the Biden administration, it is likely that soon products as varied as iPhones to laptops to the electric vehicles championed in Democrats' reconciliation package will contain raw earth minerals sourced from Taliban-run Afghanistan and developed by communist China. This would allow both the Taliban and China to profit and put American national security in jeopardy."
Rare earth minerals have become an increasingly hot button topic. China controls around 35 percent of all rare earth minerals reserves in the world and exports a large portion to the United States for use in a range of consumer products. Around 80 percent of the United States' rare earth mineral imports come from China.
China has prioritized an expansion in this market, injecting itself into a range of countries known for their stockpiles.
Since the United States withdrew its forces from Afghanistan, China has inked business deals with the Taliban that will expand its footprint in the country and also provide the Communist regime with billions in revenue. China inked a 30-year contract worth $3 billion dollars with Afghanistan's former government and has expressed its willingness to follow through on the deal with the Taliban leadership.
While the Taliban is subject to many American and international sanctions, the Biden administration and Democrats have expressed a willingness to work with the terror group and recognize it as Afghanistan's official government. Republican leaders in Congress want current sanctions enforced and additional ones implemented to prevent partnerships like the budding one between Beijing and the Taliban.
"It's not enough that we left Afghanistan vulnerable to a Taliban takeover and let them seize $85 billion worth of our military equipment," Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told the Free Beacon. "We've also left them access to $1 to $3 trillion worth of rare earth minerals, which they plan to develop and sell with China. Instead of working to stop them, House Democrats are enabling them. Is this part of a new strategy to reward the Taliban that they're not telling us?"