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Trump admin wanted to reimburse Taliban for peace talk travel expenses



The Trump administration asked Congress for funds to reimburse the Taliban for travel expenses incurred attending peace talks in Doha, Qatar, Roll Call reported Wednesday, citing a US official.

Earlier this year, the Department of Defense requested funding for fiscal year 2020 to “support certain reconciliation activities, including logistic support for members of the Taliban,” Kevin Spicer, a spokesman for Rep. Peter Visclosky, an Indiana Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, told Roll Call.

The Pentagon reportedly also sent a letter to Congress asking to use funds from the previous year for similar activities.

The big problem with this request is that it “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,” Spicer said.

Adding to the absurdity is the fact that the Taliban generates roughly $800 million a year from narcotics trafficking and other malign activities. Those funds have been used to support violent extremism, as well as operations against the US military and Afghan security forces. Those funds could be used to cover any logistical costs.

The US military has been waging war against the Taliban for nearly 18 years, making the war in Afghanistan America’s longest armed conflict. With no end in sight, the US has pinned its hopes for ending hostilities on a negotiated solution.

The Afghan government has been shut out of talks, leaving the militant group and the US to negotiate bilaterally. The current approach has been criticized as unnecessarily legitimizing the Taliban while delegitimizing the official Afghan government. But the US is determined to see this through to justify an American withdrawal.

President Donald Trump wants out. “Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he previously said. The US and the Taliban have managed to negotiate a framework agreement, but there is more work to be done to clear the hurdles on the path to peace.

On Wednesday, Visclosky’s panel approved a $690.2 billion defense spending bill that prohibits the use of funding to reimburse the Taliban for its travel expenses.

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