Ghani-Abdullah feud: US cuts aid to Kabul by $1 bln, says Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left), meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 23, 2020. (AP)

The United States is reducing aid to Afghanistan by $1 billion and is prepared to cut a similar amount in 2021 because of the ongoing feud between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday.

“We will also initiate 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 in a statement after a day-long mediation mission to Kabul.

The decision to cut the aid was made on Monday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after he made an unannounced, urgent visit to Kabul to meet with Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the rival Afghan politicians who have each declared themselves president of the country after disputed elections last year. Pompeo had hoped to break the deadlock but was unable to.

In an unusually harsh statement, Pompeo slammed the two men for being unable to work together and threatening a potential peace deal that could end America’s longest-running conflict. The Us has been the prime backer of the Afghan government since it invaded the country in 2001 and overthrew the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.

“The United States deeply regrets that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and former Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have informed Secretary Pompeo 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,” he said.

Pompeo said the US was “disappointed” in both men and their conduct, which he said had “harmed US-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonors those Afghan, Americans, and coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country.”

Pompeo said their inability to work together posed a “direct threat” to US national interests and that the administration would begin an immediate review of all its support programs for Afghanistan, starting with a reduction of $1 billion in aid this year. He said it could be reduced by another billion dollars in 2021.

“We have made clear to the leadership that we will not back security operations that are politically motivated, nor support political leaders who order such operations or those who advocate for or support parallel government,” Pompeo said.

Speaking to reporters aboard his plane on the return flight home, Pompeo said he was hopeful Ghani and Abdullah “will get their act together and we won’t have to” cut the assistance. “But we’re prepared to do that,” he said. He defended his written statement from interpretations that it is overly harsh saying it “is neither hopeful nor threatening. It is factual. These are the expectations that we have.”

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