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Republican lawmakers express concerns about anticipated US-Taliban deal

Nearly two dozen Republican lawmakers have written to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to express “serious concerns” about the anticipated US-Taliban deal.

Led by Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the 22 members of Congress said they “are seeking assurances that you will not place the security of the American people into the hands of the Taliban, and undermine our ally, the current government of Afghanistan.”

The US is expected to ink a deal with the militant group on Saturday that would eventually bring about an end to America’s longest-running war. Under the plan, the American military presence would be reduced to 8,600 troops from the current 12,000 to 13,000 over the course of 135 days, according to two sources familiar with the agreement. Pompeo said Tuesday that the US would sign the deal “if and only if” the week-long reduction in violence in Afghanistan is successful.

In the letter sent Wednesday, the lawmakers outline seven specific assurances about the expected deal, including that it “will not contain any secret annexes of side deals,” that it “must not contain a commitment for a full U.S. withdrawal at this point,” and that it not establish intelligence sharing or a “joint counterterrorism center” with the Taliban.

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, Cheney asked Esper about “secret side deals with the Taliban.” The defense secretary said “nothing comes to mind.”

“I know there’s a base agreement and some annexes, I don’t know if those have been agreed upon as secret or something, but I would — I’ll certainly raise that with the secretary of state,” he said.

Cheney also pressed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley about one of those annexes containing a provision for counterrorism cooperation with the Taliban. Milley said he was “not aware” of such a provision and committed to “take a rigorous look at whatever annexes are out there.”

The 22 Republican lawmakers wrote that “President Trump has taken crucial action to keep our nation safe, including eliminating the world’s most dangerous terrorists and destroying the ISIS caliphate. He knows a bad deal when he sees one.”

“We urge you not to commit to a dangerous deal with the Taliban that would abandon the President’s track record of strengthening America and putting our security and interests first,” they wrote.

The Pentagon confirmed they received the letter.

“As with all Congressional correspondence, we will respond directly to the authors of the letter,” Pentagon spokesperson Jessica Maxwell told CNN.

CNN has reached out to the State Department about the letter.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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