Republican lawmakers met with Afghan vice president, anti-Taliban resistance leader


Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Mike Waltz said Friday that they spoke with Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh and representatives of anti-Taliban resistance fighter Ahmad Massoud.

The two Republican lawmakers called on President Biden to recognize the two as “legitimate government representatives of Afghanistan.”

Mr. Saleh proclaimed himself to be the “acting president” of Afghanistan on Aug. 17 after the democratically elected President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as the Taliban gained control.

“We ask the Biden Administration to recognize that the Afghan Constitution is still intact, and the Afghan Taliban takeover is illegal,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Taliban has de facto control of Afghanistan and the Biden administration has coordinated with the group since their takeover in mid-August.

Neither the White House nor the State Department have publicly backed Mr. Saleh and are far less likely to back Mr. Massoud, the 32-year-old son of renowned mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.

“We understand that Afghan leaders are in discussions regarding the future of their country and its government. We are focused on supporting these discussions and a peaceful and orderly transition of power to an inclusive government with broad support,” a State Department spokesperson told Politico.

Messrs. Graham of South Carolina and Waltz of Florida said the two figures “chose to stay and fight for the freedoms of the Afghan people” and should enjoy backing by the U.S.

“They will also be on the front lines in the fight against global Islamic Extremism, which will continue to plot attacks against the West in the wake of our withdrawal from the region,” they said.

Soon after the Taliban takeover this month, Mr. Massoud, penned an op-ed in The Washington Post calling on the U.S, to support his continued resistance against the Taliban carried out from his stronghold in Panjshir.

Mr. Massoud said he had recruited Afghan army and special forces soldiers who had defected to join his resistance movement but said his forces were undersupplied for protracted conflict with the Taliban.

“To that end, I entreat Afghanistan’s friends in the West to intercede for us in Washington and in New York, with Congress and with the Biden administration,” Mr. Massoud wrote.

“The United States and its allies have left the battlefield, but America can still be a ‘great arsenal of democracy,’ as Franklin D. Roosevelt said when coming to the aid of the beleaguered British before the U.S. entry into World War II,” he wrote.

The lawmakers’ meeting with the two Afghan figures comes amid the continued disarray in Afghanistan as the military scrambles to evacuate as many U.S. citizens and Afghan refugees as possible before the Aug. 31 deadline.

The State Department hasn’t settled on what diplomatic presence the U.S. will keep in Afghanistan after evacuating its $806 million embassy in Kabul as the Taliban overran city.

Amid the tumult, the Taliban continues to vie for international recognition, distancing itself from its ties to al Qaeda and promising to comply with international standards for human rights.

But Messrs. Graham and Waltz called on Mr. Biden to draw a clear line.

“We call on President Biden to designate the Afghan Taliban as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and we urge him to publicly support Congressional efforts to stand with our friends in the Panjshir Valley who will serve as a bulwark against regional terror,” they said.

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