The details of how the U.S. military will withdraw from Afghanistan – including the types of attacks U.S. troops and the Taliban have agreed to not conduct – are part of two classified annexes to the recently signed withdrawal agreement, according to the New York Times.
While some members of Congress will be able to read the annexes, the vast majority of the American public will have no idea what their government has agreed to as part of the deal to end the war in Afghanistan, which is in its 19th year.
The U.S. military has “legitimate reasons” why it does not want some information to become public knowledge, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said on Tuesday.
“That would include operational sensitive information regarding troop movements,” Hoffman said at a Pentagon news briefing. “That might be information that may be of interest to ISIS and Al Qaeda and other entities that are operating in Afghanistan. And so we have desire to protect that information.”
So far, the only publicly released information about the withdrawal deal has been a four-page agreement that was signed on Feb. 29. Nothing in those four pages explains whether the U.S. military and the Taliban will share information to fight terrorist groups or whether the Taliban will agree to stop attacking the Afghan security forces, which the U.S. military has pledged to defend.
Task & Purpose asked Hoffman how it makes sense that the Taliban can read the classified annexes in full while most Americans cannot.
“It’s an agreement with the Taliban,” Hoffman replied. “It makes sense for them to read the documents. The agreement with them provides information on our process and how we'll be implementing these. For example: with our movement of forces, it’s necessary to de-conflict that with the Taliban. So there is information that is necessary to be provided and it’s perfectly normal to do that in a diplomatic negotiation.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper is committed to providing Congress with all of the documentation related to the withdrawal agreement, Hoffman said. Lawmakers can then provide information to the general public about the agreement.
However, the information in the annexes is classified, and that prevents lawmakers from talking about it publicly.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) recently said the annexes do not include verification measures for the agreement nor do they require the Taliban to renounce Al Qaeda, despite Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s public comments.
“I’m not going to talk about what’s in the documents, a number of them are classified, as you know, but the documents that have been sent to the Hill do not include those things,” Cheney said at a March 3 House Armed Services Committee hearing.