Earlier this year, the Pentagon reportedly asked Congress for funding to reimburse the Taliban for transportation and other expenses the group incurs by attending peace negotiations.
“The Defense Department requested fiscal 2020 funding to support certain reconciliation activities, including logistic support for members of the Taliban and, in March 2019, they sent a notification letter to the Committee on using fiscal year 2019 funds for similar activities,” a spokesman for House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense Chairman Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.) told Roll Call.
The money would pay for the terrorist organization’s transportation, lodging, food and supplies, the spokesman said. He also said the Defense Department’s request “would implicate provisions of law concerning material support to terrorists, the Taliban’s ongoing offensive operations against U.S. service members, and their continuing lack of acknowledgement of the government of Afghanistan or the rights of women in Afghan society.”
The funding request is like “life imitating The Onion,” Steve Ellis, executive vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, told Roll Call.
“Even if you leave aside that they are still conducting operations against our interests and allies, having to pay for someone to be at the table undercuts our bargaining position and demonstrates their lack of enthusiasm for a deal,” Ellis said. “I’m sure the Taliban would like whatever cash we’re willing to give them, but it’s not like they aren’t able to continue funding their fighting. How about using some of that cash instead of American taxpayer dollars.”
The subcommittee on Wednesday approved a spending bill for fiscal year 2020 that prohibits reimbursing Taliban expenses.
“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to pay the expenses of any member of the Taliban to participate in any meeting that does not include the participation of members of the Government of Afghanistan or that restricts the participation of women,” the legislation said.
Roll Call noted that the Taliban are well-funded, making most of their money trafficking drugs. The group reportedly makes at least $800 million a year from activities related to opium sales.
The Hill has reached out to the Pentagon for comment.
The Taliban ruled over most of Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until the U.S. invasion in 2001. The Trump administration has been pressing negotiations with the group as seeks to end the war there.