The largest GOP caucus in Congress is demanding the Biden administration turn over documents on its humanitarian aid to the Taliban, arguing that the payments to the group while U.S. citizens remain in Afghanistan amount to "ransom."
The Republican Study Committee intends to investigate whether the administration's $64 million in humanitarian aid was conditioned on the release of evacuation flights by the Taliban, which swiftly reassumed control of Afghanistan amid President Joe Biden's unconditional withdrawal of U.S. forces.
"We have serious concerns about negotiations with the Taliban leading to the payment of ransom — whether marketed as humanitarian assistance or sanctions relief — which will give the Taliban resources that could be used to attack the United States or our allies," 21 RSC lawmakers wrote in a letter Tuesday to the State Department, according to an exclusive report in The Washington Free Beacon.
"The payment of ransom to terrorists, likely including the Sept. 13 announcement of $64 million dollars in humanitarian aid to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan provided without guardrails, will only further place Americans in harm's way by incentivizing the Taliban, and other terrorist groups, to kidnap more Americans," the letter said.
Also, the State Department still "has not presented a plan before Congress illustrating how it will ensure that Americans will not be left behind through diplomatic negotiations," the letter added.
The RSC is giving Secretary of State Antony Blinken 10 days to respond with the internal documents about the negotiations with the Taliban, according to the letter signed by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., the RSC chairman, and 20 other House GOP lawmakers.
"Holding Americans hostage is an effective way to make money," Banks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, lamented to the Free Beacon.
Rep. Tracey Mann, R-Kan., was among the signatories.
"The American people deserve to know whether the United States has provided any financial assistance to the Taliban in exchange for the release of American citizens, or whether the Taliban has requested such assistance, which amounts to ransom," Mann told the Free Beacon.
Sanctions relief is also a rumor and concern for Republicans, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, added to the Free Beacon.
"The Biden administration's lack of planning and execution created the conditions for the Taliban to hold Americans and our Afghan allies hostage and allows the Taliban to use them as bargaining chips to unfreeze assets, withdrawing sanctions, or gain international recognition," Crenshaw, a signatory, told the Free Beacon.
"We cannot negotiate with terrorists and we certainly cannot acquiesce to their demands," he said.
In another information request, albeit related, Mann, Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., and 19 of their Republican colleagues sent a letter to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, detailing their concerns about the Biden administration's consideration of lifting sanctions on the Taliban.
The letter follows the U.N. Security Council resolution proposed at the end of August, which would ease sanctions on the Taliban.
"President Biden has already put American lives at risk and abandoned hundreds of our citizens in Afghanistan," Mann wrote in a statement.
"Our top priority must be to bring home American citizens still stranded in Afghanistan and protect our national security. Lifting sanctions on the Taliban would pose a greater threat to the safety of Americans and allies still in Afghanistan and risk terrorist threats on American soil," he wrote.
Also, the United Nations should not lift sanctions to allow the Taliban to grow, Barr added.
"The U.S. needs to push the United Nations to fully implement U.N. sanctions on the Taliban," Barr's statement read. "We cannot risk U.S. or international aid replenishing the coffers of this terrorist group. I appreciate Congressman Mann for his support on this effort and keeping the people ... safe by standing up to the Taliban."
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