WASHINGTON – The United States should help resistance groups overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan, and be prepared to give Afghanistan up to $20 million in aid once the Taliban is removed from power, said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R- Frederick.
Bartlett spoke Tuesday as part of a bipartisan delegation of House members who traveled to Italy, Turkey and Russia last week where they said they worked to build coalitions for the U.S. fight against terrorism. The 11-member delegation returned from its six-day trip Monday night.
The trip included meetings in Rome with former Afghan king Zahir Shah, who was deposed in 1973, and with commanders in the resistance movement against the Taliban.
“We conveyed to King Zahir that we support his efforts and the efforts of the Afghani resistance to bring freedom and peace to their homeland,” said Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., who led the delegation.
“The United States and Afghan resistance groups have a common struggle against the oppressive Taliban regime and their terrorist cronies,” Weldon said.
In Ankara, Turkey, the group met with top officials of the government, which has agreed to let the United States use its airspace and transit facilities during a potential military strike in response to the terrorist attacks.
Bartlett said Turkish officials urged the United States to give development assistance to Afghanistan through non-governmental organizations in Turkey. But they cautioned against pouring too much U.S. money into the country, Bartlett said.
“If we gave them a billion dollars it would cause them problems and create corruption,” he said.
In Moscow, the delegation met with members of the Duma, Russia’s national legislature, and with officials in President Vladimir Putin’s administration to discuss cooperation between the two countries in the war on terrorism as well as other issues. Delegation members said they were encouraged by the response they got from the Russians.
On a personal note, Bartlett said he was pleased to renew his acquaintance with members of the Duma, whom he had met on his previous trip to Russia in the late 1990s. The pleasure appeared to be mutual, he said.
“They don’t just kiss you twice, they kiss you three or four times,” he said.