U.S. Cuts $1 Billion in Aid to Afghanistan After Pompeo Visit
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on March 23 that the United States would be cutting $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan after his visit to that country. This comes after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his main political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, failed to form a unity government, jeopardizing U.S.-led negotiations with the Taliban. Pompeo said that the failure to form an inclusive government “has harmed U.S.-Afghan relations.” Pompeo also announced that the U.S. government is willing to cut another 1 billion dollars in aid to Afghanistan next year. Despite the aid cuts, Pompeo said that the United States will give $15 million in aid to Afghanistan to fight coronavirus.
After meeting Ghani and Abdullah in Kabul, Pompeo flew to Doha, Qatar, where he met with the Taliban’s chief negotiator, Abdul Ghani Baradar, to push the Taliban to continue to comply with the peace deal signed on February 29. The United States had hoped for a continuation of the peace deal that would eventually lead to the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. This deal was hindered when incumbent president Ghani and opposition candidate Abdullah both claimed they had won the presidency in a contested election in September 2019; each held his own inauguration ceremony. Talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban were scheduled to begin March 10; however, they did occur amid political discord and Ghani’s refusal to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners. Neither Ghani nor Abdullah have agreed on who should serve in the Afghan government’s delegation and on a solution to the prisoner exchange.
The United States is firm on its “condition-based” troop withdrawal from Afghanistan that was an integral part of the February 29 deal with the Taliban. Despite ongoing fighting, Pompeo stated that the Taliban has generally fulfilled the commitment to reduce violence. A pathway to peace stalls each time Ghani and Abdullah fight over power, and aid cuts could serve as motivation to end political infighting since the United States provides billions of dollars in annual aid to Afghanistan and its military. As the United States continues to pull troops out of the country, Afghanistan’s stability is reliant on a more unified government and the promise of the Taliban prevent other extremist groups such as the Islamic State from gaining a foothold in the nation.