US $1b aid cut to squeeze Afghan Army funds

DM Monitoring

WASHINGTON: A planned $1 billion cut in US aid to Afghanistan would come from funds for Afghan security forces, according to three U.S. sources, a step experts said would undercut both Kabul’s ability to fight the Taliban and its leverage to negotiate a peace deal with them.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the reduction on March 23 and threatened to slash the same amount next year to try to force Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival Abdullah Abdullah to end a feud that has helped stall U.S.-led peace-making efforts in Afghanistan.
After nearly 20 years of fighting the Taliban, the United States is looking for a way to extricate itself and to achieve peace between the U.S.-backed government and the militant group, which controls more than 40% of Afghan territory.
Pompeo and other U.S. officials have declined to publicly detail how the cut would be made. The State Department declined to comment on its plans. Two U.S. congressional aides, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said State Department officials told Congress the $1 billion would come from a $4.2 billion Pentagon fund that underwrites about three quarters of the Afghan security forces’ annual budget. “The idea they would cut security forces funding goes against U.S. national security interests,” said one aide, arguing the money is needed to maintain the U.S.-backed government’s ability to fight the Taliban while preserving its bargaining power in peace talks.
Most of the fund pays for salaries, food, fuel, equipment and infrastructure to support Afghan troops and national police.
Congress appropriated at least $86.4 billion for Afghan security assistance between fiscal years 2002 and 2019, according to a March 11 Congressional Research Service report. “That’s the only fund large enough to support a $1 billion cut,” said the third source, a former U.S. military official who also requested anonymity.