Pentagon asked Congress for funds to pay expenses of Taliban negotiators

The Pentagon asked Congress earlier this year for funding to reimburse the Taliban for expenses the militant group incurs attending peace talks, a US newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The money would cover the Taliban’s costs for expenses such as transportation, lodging, food and supplies, Kevin Spicer, a spokesman for the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, told Roll Call.

“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,”said Spicer, spokesman forDemocrat lawmaker Peter J. Visclosky.

He said that the request to funnel U.S. funds to the Taliban “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.”

Consequently, the subcommittee on Wednesday approved a $690 billion defense spending bill for fiscal year 2020 that bars 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 provision says.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has held six rounds of talks with the Taliban. The group has refused to negotiate with the Afghan government.

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