Republicans Support US Presence in Afghanistan, As Taliban Pledges Ongoing Jihad
(CNSNews.com) – House Speaker John Boehner led a group of Republican lawmakers on a visit to Afghanistan Monday to send “a strong, unequivocal message that the House of Representatives wants to maintain a right-sized presence” post-2014.
The delegation’s two-day visit, previously unannounced, coincided with an interview in which a Taliban spokesman rejected of all the presidential candidates in the recent election; vowed the “jihad” would continue; and drew no distinction between combat forces, which are due to withdraw by year’s end, and an envisaged smaller mission to train and assist Afghan security forces beyond that date.
Whether such a post-International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission happens at all depends on the next president signing the bilateral security agreement (BSA), which outgoing President Hamid Karzai refused to sign.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Afghan Islamic News Agency there was no doubt that Afghanistan’s next administration would “sign the agreement of prolonged military presence.”
“It is a huge crime whosoever commits it, and will be held accountable by the nation.”
“The occupation will persist until it is crushed and killed and the armed resistance against it is accelerated and widened,” he said. “The so-called non-military presence but for military training is against our religion, country and basic values. It isn’t acceptable either.”
“As far as it is obligatory upon us, we will continue jihad.”
Boehner and seven other GOP lawmakers met with International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander Gen. Joseph Dunford, U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham, and U.S. troops.
“The delegation sent a strong, unequivocal message that the House of Representatives wants to maintain a right-sized presence in Afghanistan to successfully complete the work that has been done to date, and to honor the sacrifice of thousands of troops and civilians, as well as their families,” the speaker’s office said in a statement.
All of the leading presidential contenders made clear their support for the BSA during the campaign running up to the April 5 election.
With just ten percent of the ballots tallied, the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) said Sunday that Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister who performed strongly against Karzai in the 2009 election, was currently in the lead with almost 42 percent.
Close behind was former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, with about 38 percent, and no other candidate received more than 10 percent.
If no candidate has obtained more than 50 percent of the vote the two frontrunners will compete in a second round.
The IEC says it is taking evidence of electoral fraud seriously, and another body, the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission, is tasked to adjudicate any complaints regarding the preliminary results, before the final ones are announced on May 14. The complaints body has already begun recounts of some ballots after suspicions were raised.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan welcomed the first batch of results but also urged caution.
“Until the final results are announced by the IEC, stakeholders should be careful in drawing premature conclusions so as not to create inaccurate expectations.”
In his interview, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said his group would not recognize the election outcome, since “all those elections and selections which are carried out under the yoke of occupation and under the direct control and administration of foreign military forces are void and null.”
The Taliban’s message to the next administration in Kabul, he said, was to “abandon supporting the infidels and instead of serving them, they should start the service of Islam and should join mujahidin in this critical juncture of our history.”
The lawmakers accompanying Boehner, all Republicans, are Reps. John Kline (Minn.), Doc Hastings (Wash.), Dave Camp (Mich.), Tom Latham (Iowa), Devin Nunes (Calif.), Greg Walden (Ore.) and Steve Womack (Ark.).