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GOP Lawmakers Probe Biden Admin Humanitarian Aid to Taliban

Republicans concerned aid money was 'ransom payment' to get stranded Americans home safe

Members of the Republican Study Committee listen as former secretary of state Mike Pompeo speaks / Getty Images
• September 16, 2021 4:30 pm

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A coalition of Republican foreign policy leaders in Congress is demanding that the Biden administration turn over all internal documents and communications related to plans to provide the Taliban with cash assets, a move the coalition says would incentivize the terror group's taking of American hostages.

The Republican Study Committee (RSC), the largest GOP caucus in Congress, is spearheading a probe that requires the Biden administration to disclose if the Taliban has insisted on U.S. financial aid in exchange for allowing Americans stranded in the country to return home. The State Department announced last week that it is sending $64 million in humanitarian aid to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, generating concerns that the Biden administration has agreed to a quid pro quo in which the terrorist group gets aid dollars in exchange for providing safe passage to those still stranded in the country.

"We have serious concerns about negotiations with the Taliban leading to the payment of ransom—whether marketed as humanitarian assistance or sanctions relief—which will give the Taliban resources that could be used to attack the United States or our allies," a group of 21 RSC lawmakers wrote in a letter exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon and sent Tuesday to the State Department. "The payment of ransom to terrorists, likely including the September 13 announcement of $64 million dollars in humanitarian aid to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan provided without guardrails, will only further place Americans in harm's way by incentivizing the Taliban, and other terrorist groups, to kidnap more Americans."

The latest investigation is one of several helmed by Republicans in Congress who want to know why the Biden administration pulled U.S. forces from Afghanistan without a plan to stop the Taliban from regaining control of the country. The Biden administration is under intense criticism for leaving Americans and vulnerable Afghans behind in the country as the Taliban angles to use them as leverage in negotiations with U.S. diplomats. The State Department still "has not presented a plan before Congress illustrating how it will ensure that Americans will not be left behind through diplomatic negotiations," the RSC wrote in its letter.

The State Department has 10 days to provide Congress with detailed internal information about negotiations with Afghanistan's recently formed Taliban government that could see economic sanctions on the group lifted, according to a copy of the investigation documents obtained by the Free Beacon. The investigation is backed by 21 GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Tracey Mann (Kan.) and Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Banks, the chairman of the RSC, told the Free Beacon that any deal that gives the Taliban access to hard currency will send the message that "holding Americans hostage is an effective way to make money."

The lawmakers say they want detailed information about any plans the Biden administration has to unfreeze billions of dollars in assets held in U.S. accounts on behalf of the former U.S.-aligned Afghan government. This includes "any sanctions relief, or financial assistance to the Taliban in exchange for providing them safe passage of American citizens or lawful permanent residents out of Afghanistan," according to the document request letter.

They also want the State Department to provide copies "of all documents and communications" related to the administration's ongoing dialogue with Taliban leaders regarding frozen funds.

Mann told the Free Beacon that "the American people deserve to know whether the United States has provided any financial assistance to the Taliban in exchange for the release of American citizens, or whether the Taliban has requested such assistance, which amounts to ransom."

The State Department's failure to inform Congress about its ongoing discussions with the Taliban has fueled GOP concerns that money will be exchanged for concessions from the Taliban, including the release of Americans and vulnerable Afghans still inside the country.

"The Biden administration's lack of planning and execution created the conditions for the Taliban to hold Americans and our Afghan allies hostage and allows the Taliban to use them as bargaining chips to unfreeze assets, withdrawing sanctions, or gain international recognition," Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R., Texas), who signed the letter, told the Free Beacon. "We cannot negotiate with terrorists and we certainly cannot acquiesce to their demands."