Pompeo announced a US$1b cut in aid to Afghanistan
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a US$1 billion cut in aid to Afghanistan after he failed to convince Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political foe to end a feud that has helped jeopardize a US-led peace effort.
“The United States is also prepared to cut 2021 assistance by the same amount and is conducting a review of all of our programs and projects to identify additional reductions and reconsider our pledges to future donor conferences for Afghanistan,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo’s statement came as he flew home from a fruitless daylong effort in Kabul to end competing claims to the presidency by Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah and secure their agreement to form an inclusive government.
The harshly worded announcement at the end of the mission he undertook despite the spreading pandemic underscores how badly stalled the US-led effort to end America’s longest war and decades of strife in Afghanistan has become.
“The US deeply regrets that Ghani and Abdullah were unable to agree on an inclusive government,” said Pompeo. “Their failure has harmed US-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonors those Afghan, Americans, and Coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure. We are today announcing a responsible adjustment to our spending in Afghanistan and immediately reducing assistance by US$1 billion this year. We are prepared to reduce aid by another US$1 billion in 2021. We will also initiate a review of all of our programs and projects to identify additional reductions.”
On his way back to Washington, Pompeo landed at a military base in Qatar for a 75-minute meeting with Taliban officials, including their top negotiator, Mullah Baradar Akhund.
Speaking to reporters after departing Qatar, Pompeo declined to detail how the US$1 billion in aid cuts would be apportioned or whether he set a deadline to settle their dispute. However, he indicated the aid cut could be canceled if they come to an agreement.
“We are hopeful, frankly, that they will get their act together and we won’t have to do it, but we’re prepared to,” he said.
Yesterday, in a speech carried by state 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.
“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 to the constitution,” Ghani said, adding the amendment is impossible.
Abdullah wanted a change in the constitution in order to create a prime minister position to reduce the amount of power concentrated in the president’s hands.
Pompeo’s mission came nearly a month after his last visit to Doha for the signing of the February 29 deal with the Taliban. He said the US would back Afghan security forces while continuing a phased “conditions-based” troop withdrawal as specified in the deal signed with the Taliban. He said despite ongoing fighting, the Taliban have largely fulfilled a commitment to reduce violence.