Two Members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday introduced a new bipartisan legislation that would provide congressional oversight of the Afghanistan peace process, according to a statement from U.S. Senator Todd Young.
“The Ensuring a Durable Afghanistan Peace Act of 2019,” introduced by the committee’s top ranking Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez from New Jersey and his Republican colleague Sen. Todd Young from Indiana, would require congressional oversight “For U.S. diplomatic efforts to achieve a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and any agreement that emerges from that process.”
According to Senator Menendez, the new legislation is an effort to ensure that Afghanistan would not descend in to chaos as U.S. draws down its military operation in the country.
“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,” Senator Menendez said. “Afghanistan can never again become a platform for terrorist attacks against the United States or our allies. This is exactly why Congress must assert its oversight authority in the event that the Trump administration restarts negotiations with the Taliban,” Senator Menendez said.
Moreover, Senator Young said, “Unfortunately, like other war powers discussions, Congress has taken a backseat in the debate over the future of our mission in Afghanistan”, adding that as Afghanistan conflict is moving toward a stalemate and U.S. is pursuing negotiations with Taliban, “Congress must be a part of the process to ensure that our mission is brought to a responsible end.”
Based on the statement, The Ensuring a Durable Afghanistan Peace Act of 2019 if enacted would:
- 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, U.S. 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:
- The extent to which the Secretary of State can verify that the Taliban are complying with their obligations and commitments under the peace agreement;
- Whether the Taliban and Haqqani Network have transparently and verifiably broken ties with al-Qaeda;
- An assessment of the viability of the intra-Afghan governing agreement; and,
- 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:
- Assessment of terrorist activity in Afghanistan, Taliban actions with respect to the counterterrorism guarantees, and threats against the United States homeland;
- Assessment as to whether the Taliban are in compliance with their commitments under the peace agreement;
- Updated assessment of the intra-Afghan agreement, and whether the terms of the ceasefire are being met by all parties of the conflict;
- 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,
- A description of the rule of law, governance structures, freedoms of press and media, and civil society’s operating space following a peace deal.