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Pompeo announces slashing of US aid to Afghanistan after visit to Kabul

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo. (Ron Przysucha/U.S. State Department)

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

The U.S. State Department has announced a $1 billion reduction in aid to Afghanistan and a review of the scope of its cooperation with the country.

The announcement came on March 23 after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a visit to Kabul failed to convince President Ashraf Ghani and former Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah to end a feud that has jeopardized a peace deal signed last month.

Pompeo announced the slashing of aid in a statement released late on March 23.

It said Pompeo went to Kabul with an urgent message and “spoke directly to the nation’s leaders to impress upon them the need to compromise for the sake of the Afghan people.”

Pompeo’s harshly worded statement said the United States deeply regrets that Ghani and Abdullah have been unable to agree on an inclusive government.

Pompeo said the United States was disappointed in them, adding that their failure has harmed U.S.-Afghan relations and dishonors the Afghan, Americans, and coalition partners who died in the struggle to build a new future for the country.

The reduction in aid is immediate along with the review of U.S. cooperation. Washington is also prepared to reduce assistance next year by an additional $1 billion, he said.

After departing Kabul, Pompeo made a stop in Doha, for a meeting with three top Taliban leaders.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said he met with the Taliban’s chief negotiator, Mullah Baradar, and two other Taliban leaders.

The meeting in the Qatari capital — the highest-level ever held between U.S. and Taliban representatives — was meant to press the Taliban to continue to comply with a peace deal that the militant group signed with Washington on February 29, Ortagus said.

Pompeo was hoping to advance progress on the peace deal that could lead to the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan and an end to the country’s 18-year conflict.

Since the signing of the deal with the Taliban, political turmoil has complicated the peace process, which has ground to a halt, with both Ghani and Abdullah arguing they had won the presidency through a contested election in September.

After his talks with the Taliban leaders, Pompeo told reporters that the United States and all countries in the coalition were moving forward with a planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

“We have a commitment that has a timeline,” he said. “We are moving down that timeline.”

The Taliban has not given up its campaign of violence against the Afghan government or gone ahead with promised talks with Kabul.

But Pompeo said that the reduction in violence had been “real” and that he Taliban had abided by its promise not to attack U.S. forces.

“They committed to reducing violence; they have largely done that,” Pompeo said.