US to Reduce Afghan Aid by $1 Billion After Pompeo Visits Kabul

March 25, 2020 Updated: March 25, 2020
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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday announced a $1 billion cut in U.S. aid to Afghanistan after the country’s rival leaders failed to agree on forming a new government.

The decision was made after Pompeo’s urgent visit to Kabul on Monday where he met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and former Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. They have both contested the result of September’s presidential election, raising the prospect of parallel governments as each declared themselves president of the country.

Epoch Times Photo
Afghanistan’s Abdullah Abdullah, President Ashraf Ghani’s political rival, meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 23, 2020. Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Office (Handout via Reuters)

Pompeo had hoped to break the deadlock but was unable to, with Ghani and Abdullah informing him that “that they have been unable to agree on an inclusive government that can meet the challenges of governance, peace, and security, and provide for the health and welfare of Afghan citizens,” according to a State Department statement.

The political feud between the rival Afghan politicians has stalled the selection of negotiating teams expected to be completed by March 10 for intra-Afghan talks based on the two separate agreements between the United States and Taliban and the United States and Afghanistan.

The failure to resolve the Afghan government crisis “disappointed” the United States, “harmed U.S.-Afghan relations,” and represents “a direct threat to U.S. national interests,” the statement says. The U.S. government therefore reduced the aid to Afghanistan by $1 billion this year and could also reduce it by another $1 billion next year, with the United States unwilling to support parallel governments, according to the statement.

Additional reductions of other programs and projects are also possible. The U.S. government “will initiate a review of all of our programs and projects to identify additional reductions, and reconsider our pledges to future donor conferences for Afghanistan,” the statement says.

Epoch Times Photo
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, signs an agreement with Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, at a signing agreement ceremony between members of Afghanistan’s Taliban and the United States in Doha, Qatar, on Feb. 29, 2020. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

The statement also criticized Afghan leaders for not being able to establish “an inclusive national team for intra-Afghan negotiations, to facilitate prisoner release by Afghanistan and Taliban, and to achieve permanent ceasefire.” However, there have not been attacks on American forces since the peace agreement between the United States and Taliban was signed over three weeks ago, Pompeo said after returning from Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, in a speech carried by Afghan broadcaster RTA, Ghani said the cut in aid would not affect key areas, and further discussions would be held to resolve the issue with Abdullah, according to Reuters.

“I met with Dr. Abdullah Abdullah … and wanted to offer him a central role in the peace process and positions in the cabinet to his allies but he emphasized an amendment of the constitution,” Ghani said, adding the amendment was “impossible.”

Pompeo declined to detail how the $1 billion in aid cuts would be apportioned or whether he set a deadline to settle their dispute, or if there is any timeline set for Afghan leaders to resolve the government dispute.

The United States is ready to cancel the announced cut if Afghan leaders form “an inclusive government that can provide security and participate in the peace process,” the statement says.

“We are hopeful, frankly, that they will get their act together and we won’t have to do it. But we’re prepared to do that,” Pompeo said at the press conference.

“The United States is not abandoning our partnership with Afghanistan, nor our commitment to support the Afghan security forces, but reviewing the scope of our cooperation given the irresponsible actions of Afghan leaders,” the statement says.

However, the assistance of $15 million provided by the United States to Afghanistan to help the country in its combat with the CCP virus will not be impacted by the cuts and will be provided, the statement confirmed.

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.

Pompeo also said that not only the current administration had been working for a long time with all Afghan leaders trying to convince and incentivize them to start negotiations, “the previous administration tried to do it for eight years and wasn’t successful.”

Pompeo also stopped at a military base in Qatar for a 75-minute meeting with Taliban officials, including their top negotiator, Mullah Baradar Akhund. The Taliban had largely reduced violence, as it had promised, and is “working toward delivering their team to the ultimate negotiations,” Pompeo said.

Reuters contributed to this report.