KABUL, Afghanistan — The Trump administration is slashing $1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan and threatening further reductions in all forms of cooperation after the country’s rival leaders failed to agree on forming a new government.
The announcement came from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday after he made an unannounced visit to Kabul to meet with Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. Each has declared himself president of the country after disputed elections last year.
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 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 U.S. was “disappointed” in both men and their conduct, which he said had “harmed U.S.-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonors those Afghan, American, 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 U.S. national interests, and 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.
Pompeo, who after leaving Kabul met with a senior Taliban official in Qatar, also said Ghani and Abdullah were acting inconsistently with agreements they made to support a U.S.-Taliban peace agreement signed last month. That deal called for intra-Afghan peace talks to begin within 10 days — by March 10 — but they have not begun and Ghani and Abdullah have not yet even agreed on who should be part of the non-Taliban delegation. Nor have they agreed to prisoner swaps with the Taliban as envisaged by the deal.
Pompeo said the United States would continue to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan under the terms of its agreement with Taliban, which calls for a reduction in the next several months from about 13,000 to 8,600.
Pompeo added that the U.S. would be willing to look again at the aid cuts if the two leaders can form an inclusive government and said Washington remained committed to a partnership with the people of Afghanistan. As a demonstration of that, he said the U.S. would provided $15 million in assistance to help Afghanistan fight the spread of the coronavirus.
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