In Brief

Why is the US cutting $1bn aid to Afghanistan?

US blames rival Afghan leaders for stalling Taliban peace talks

The US is to cut aid to Afghanistan by $1bn (£840m) following a continued failure to agree on a unity government to take part in peace talks with the Taliban.

The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, paid a surprise visit to Kabul yesterday, hoping to save an agreement signed between the Taliban and the US last month. 

However, Pompeo failed to persuade Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, to agree on a deal to form a unity government and continue talks with the militant group.

The next step was supposed to be a prisoner swap, the BBC reports, which under the US-Taliban agreement would see some 5,000 Taliban prisoners freed by the Afghan authorities, in return for 1,000 government troops. Gahni claims he had not agreed to this. 

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The political situation in Afghanistan is in turmoil after both Gahni and Abdullah declared themselves president following hotly disputed elections last year.

Escalating his warning, Pompeo said a further $1bn could be cut from its aid package next year, though he suggested the budget could be restored if the two politicians came to a deal.

In a statement described as “unusally harsh” by Time, Pompeo said Washington was “disappointed” in both men, adding that their behaviour had “harmed US-Afghan relations”.

Pompeo said that the failure to agree a deal “dishonours those Afghan, American, and coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country”.

Nearly 3,500 members of the international coalition forces have died since the 2001 invasion, as well as an estimated 32,000 civilians.

A defiant Ghani said in a televised address yesterday that “the US reduction in aid will have no direct impact on our key sectors”, but nevertheless expressed hope that the Afghan government could try to satisfy the US “through talks and negotiations”.

However, says the BBC, the “political disunity” in Kabul has “hampered efforts to create a negotiating team and the talks with the Taliban… have yet to begin”.

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