As representatives of the Taliban and the United States meet in Doha, Qatar, and edge closer to a deal to end the 18-year stalemated conflict in Afghanistan, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney on Monday became the latest lawmaker to express misgivings about a potential agreement, highlighting the deadly "daily attacks" carried out by the terror group even as its officials ostensibly seek peace.
Cheney, R-Wyo., told Fox News in a statement on Monday morning that the American public should have full transparency regarding the details of any accord and the potential pact must include a definitive rejection of Al Qaeda. The House Republican Conference Chair warned of the consequences for U.S. national security if such conditions aren't met.
"Throughout ongoing talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, the Taliban has waged daily attacks that resulted in the deaths of American soldiers and their allies, as well as innocent civilians,” Cheney, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said in the statement. “The Taliban deliberately terrorizes schools, profits from drug trafficking and dispatches its suicide bombers throughout the country. The Taliban continues to fight alongside Al Qaeda — an alliance the two groups have maintained for over two decades. Just recently, the Taliban released a video justifying Al Qaeda’s attacks on the U.S. on 9/11.”
Cheney underscored that, given the Taliban's “sordid history and ongoing violence, it is vital that the full text of any agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban, including supposed counterterrorism assurances, be released to the public.”
“Any legitimate agreement will include a public, explicit renunciation of Al Qaeda from top Taliban leaders, as well as commitments from the Taliban to protect the hard-won rights of women and girls, support the legitimacy of the Afghan Constitution, stop receiving funds or military support from malign sources, and actively participate in future counter-terror operations,” she said. “Without these elements and corresponding verification mechanisms, we will not be ending the war — we will be retreating and ceding the battlefield to our enemies, including the organization that harbored the terrorists responsible for killing nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.”
Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, warned that, without these elements, “Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations will have the ability to once again establish safe havens from which they can plot, plan, train for and launch attacks against the United States and our allies.”
The Qatar peace talks are now in their eighth round, led on the U.S. side by special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. A settlement is expected to be reached by Sept. 1, and Khalilzad tweeted last week that “excellent progress” had been made.
“The focus should be on immediately reducing violence as we move closer to intra-Afghan negotiations that will produce a political road map and a permanent ceasefire,” he wrote Thursday.
The U.S. is seeking guarantees that Afghanistan will not once again become a sanctuary for terrorists – which is what precipitated the U.S. invasion following the 9/11 attacks and led to the U.S. and its allies forcing the Taliban from power. On the other hand, Taliban leaders want to make certain U.S. forces withdraw from the embattled country.
It remains unclear what the timeline for such a departure would be, and how many – if any – U.S. forces would remain on the ground.
To date, the official Afghan government, helmed by President Ashraf Ghani, has been excluded from the ongoing negotiations, with the Taliban refusing to acknowledge Ghani as the country's legitimate leader. Presidential elections are slated for Sept. 28. The Taliban has already declared its intention to attack during the vote.
"President Trump has led the way in freeing America from one-sided agreements that undermine our national security. He has demonstrated his refusal to accept bad deals that put America and our interests at risk,” Cheney added. “The same crystal clear judgment must apply with the Al Qaeda-allied Taliban."