Pentagon seeks ‘to pay Taliban expenses’
WASHINGTON, May 17: The Pentagon said on Thursday that it had asked Congress for the authority to help fund lodging and transportation for Taliban members who were interested in negotiating local ceasefires with the Afghan government, as the Washington seeks an end to the more than 17-year-old war.
Last year, the Taliban observed an Afghan government ceasefire over the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival, leading to unprecedented scenes of government soldiers and militants embracing on front lines, and raising hopes for talks.
Since then however, fighting between the Taliban and U.S-backed Afghan government has intensified, even as talks between Washington and the militant group have continued.
"In cases where lodging and transportation would be required to facilitate the participation of all required parties to negotiate a local peace deal, the funds could be used for the purpose," Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Rebecca Rebarich said.
She said the Pentagon was seeking "to lay the groundwork in anticipation of opportunities to facilitate talks with the Afghan government to find a way to end the war." She said until now no funds had been used and the Pentagon did not provide further details of possible funding.
A bill passed this week by the House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense barred the U.S. government from using money to pay for the expenses of Taliban members taking part in the peace talks with the United States, unless the talks included members of the Afghan government or did not restrict the participation of women. The bill has still not passed the full House Appropriations Committee and it is unclear whether lawmaker's would approve the Pentagon's request. -REUTERS