US senators on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation mandating the US congress’s oversight of the Afghan peace process.
“Ensuring a Durable Afghanistan Peace Act of 2019” was introduced by Senators Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey--and a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee--and Senator Todd Young, a Republican from Indiana, according to a US Senate press release.
The legislation is intended to protect Afghan human rights, prevent the “chaos” of a quick troop withdrawal, and deny access to terrorists seeking a safe haven.
“There is no question it is time for a significant and sustained reduction of American troops in Afghanistan. Similarly, the way in which we draw down this military operation is critical so that Afghanistan does not descend into chaos,” said Senator Menendez.
“This bipartisan effort is in line with the Administration’s goals to achieve a political end to the war in a responsible manner, and also seeks to protect the hard fought gains made for the rights of Afghan women and minorities,” he said.
US Senator Young said the US mission in Afghanistan has stretched on for 18 years and is the longest military operation in United States history.
“As we pursue negotiations with the Taliban and work to end our involvement, Congress must be a part of the process to ensure that our mission is brought to a responsible end,” he said.
The Ensuring a Durable Afghanistan Peace Act of 2019 highlights the necessity of monitoring and verifying Taliban compliance with their commitments under an eventual peace agreement, including assurance that Afghanistan will not be used as a platform for international terrorism—and requires an assessment of the status of human rights, rule of law, freedoms of media and press, and civil society’s operating space in Afghanistan following a peace deal.
According to the statement, the Ensuring a Durable Afghanistan Peace Act of 2019:
• Expresses support for pursuing a peace deal with the Taliban to bring an end to the conflict in Afghanistan.
• States that any action to curtail or remove U.S. military forces from Afghanistan include regular consultation with Congress.
• Expresses support for the social, economic, and political progress the Government and people of Afghanistan have achieved since 2001.
Transmission of Agreements to Congress
• Requires that the administration transmit the final agreement with the Taliban to Congress, to include a description of counterterrorism assurances, US troop withdrawal, the status of direct Afghan negotiations and progress towards reaching a comprehensive ceasefire.
• Requires an initial verification assessment report, not later than 60 days after finalizing an agreement with the Taliban, that assesses
o the extent to which the Secretary of State can verify that the Taliban are complying with their obligations and commitments under the peace agreement;
o whether the Taliban and Haqqani Network have transparently and verifiably broken ties with al-Qaeda;
o an assessment of the viability of the intra-Afghan governing agreement; and,
o an assessment as to whether the terms of ceasefire are being met by all sides in the conflict.
Reporting on Verification and Compliance
Requires a quarterly report assessing whether the key tenets of the peace deal are being honored, including –
o assessment of terrorist activity in Afghanistan, Taliban actions with respect to the counterterrorism guarantees, and threats against the United States homeland;
o assessment as to whether the Taliban are in compliance with their commitments under the peace agreement;
o updated assessment of the intra-Afghan agreement, and whether the terms of the ceasefire are being met by all parties of the conflict;
o description of the status of human rights, including the rights of women and minorities and their access to education, justice and economic opportunities following a peace deal; and,
o a description of the rule of law, governance structures, freedoms of press and media, and civil society’s operating space following a peace deal.