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US to return and withhold some $160 million in aid to Afghanistan

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, attends a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
September 20, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has said it is cutting back $160 million worth of aid to Afghanistan, accusing Kabul of rampant corruption less than 10 days before a crucial presidential election.

Faulting graft and malfeasance, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on September 19 that Washington is sending about $100 million back to U.S. coffers that was earmarked for a large Afghan energy infrastructure project.

Pompeo cited “Afghan government corruption and financial mismanagement” for the decision due to Kabul’s “inability to transparently manage U.S. government resources.”

An “off-budget” tool will instead be used by the United States to complete the infrastructure project.

An additional $60 million is being withheld in planned assistance because of murky Afghan public-procurement practices.

The move comes as President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani seeks a second term in an election on September 28.

He has said that the Afghan government will only consider making a “legitimate” peace with the Taliban after the vote despite political uncertainty following the recent collapse of U.S.-Taliban peace talks.

Afghanistan’s National Procurement Authority has failed “to meet benchmarks for transparency and accountability in public financial management,” Pompeo said.

Funding for Kabul’s Monitoring and Evaluation Committee “will cease” at the end of this year because it allegedly is “incapable of being a partner in the international effort to build a better future for the Afghan people.”

Since 2001, Afghanistan has received more than $93 billion in U.S. assistance, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Kabul has so far this year received nearly $600 million in aid from Washington.