Critics Say US-Taliban Deal Is 'Cover for Withdrawal'
Intelligence that Afghan militants might have accepted Russian bounties for killing US troops did not scuttle the US-Taliban agreement or President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw thousands more troops from the war.
It did give critics of the deal another reason to say the Taliban shouldn’t be trusted, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
The bounty information was included in Trump’s president’s daily intelligence brief on Feb. 27, according to intelligence officials, and two days later, the US and Taliban signed an agreement which clears the way for the US to end 19 years in Afghanistan.
Under the agreement, the US will pull all its troops out of Afghanistan by May 2021.
So far the US has reduced its troop presence in Afghanistan from 12,000 to 8,600 — a target reached ahead of schedule.
Meanwhile, critics of the deal like Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., said the agreement is simply a “cover for withdrawal.”
“I have serious concerns with how this agreement has been pursued,” Waltz said.
“The Taliban has shown repeatedly — through violence and bombings both before and after the deal was signed — that they are not serious about adhering to their end of the bargain,” he added.
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, defense officials and Afghan experts claim the Taliban has not taken steps to live up to the now four-month-old agreement and they are skeptical the Taliban will ever break with al-Qaeda, which conducted the 9/11 attacks.
The US general overseeing US military operations in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, also said in mid-June that he is dubious of the Taliban’s intentions to fulfill its commitments, suggesting that he would not favor a rapid US withdrawal.
According to AP, Mike Morell, former CIA acting and deputy director, told the House Homeland Security Committee’s intelligence and counterterrorism panel on June 24 that the Taliban is militarily and politically stronger than at any time since 2001 when the Taliban refused to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.
“I believe that the Taliban, in its peace negotiations with the United States, have told us what we want to hear in order to encourage us to leave the country,” Morell said.
Thomas Joscelyn, a long time critic of the deal at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said the Taliban have repeatedly said al-Qaeda has not been in Afghanistan since 2001.
“Without any verification or enforcement mechanisms — and there are no such provisions specified in the text of the deal released to the public — there is no reason to think the Taliban is telling the truth now,” he said.