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US cutting Afghanistan aid by 1bn dollars over impasse, Pompeo says

The United States is cutting 1 billion dollars in aid to Afghanistan after the country's political opponents failed to form a new government, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Kabul/Washington, 24 March 2020 (dpa/MIA) – The United States is cutting 1 billion dollars in aid to Afghanistan after the country’s political opponents failed to form a new government, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

In an unusually harsh statement issued during a surprise visit to Kabul, Pompeo said the US is “disappointed” in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Ghani’s former electoral opponent Abdullah Abdullah, who have been unable to overcome a stalemate.

Pompeo said Washington is prepared to cut aid by another 1 billion dollars in 2021 and is planning a review to identify additional cuts that can be made.

“Their failure has harmed US-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonours those Afghan, Americans, and Coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country,” he added.

A political drama has been playing out in war-torn Afghanistan between the last election’s two main presidential candidates: incumbent Ghani, who was declared the winner, and Abdullah, who rejected the results.

The stand-off comes after the Taliban militant group agreed to a peace deal last month with the United States, which plans to scale back its troop numbers in Afghanistan after almost two decades of conflict.

But talks between the Afghan government and the militants have stalled over a prisoner swap, with the rifts among the country’s leadership frustrating the way forward.

The US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said last week Washington would like to see the prisoner releases begin soon.

According to the agreement, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners should be released ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations that had been planned to start earlier this month and which would include the militants. The talks have not started.

Pompeo’s trip, which was not previously announced, comes just days after his State Department urged against all international travel due to the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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