US cuts $1bn in Afghan aid as Pompeo fails to end impasse

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday announced a $1 bn cut in US aid to Afghanistan after he failed to convince Afghan political leaders to end a feud that has helped jeopardise the peace process.

The United States also is prepared to cut 2021 assistance by the same amount and is conducting "a review of all of our programs and projects to identify additional reductions, and reconsider our pledges to future donor conferences for Afghanistan," Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo's statement came as he flew home from a fruitless day-long effort in Kabul to end competing claims to the presidency by Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah and win their agreement to form "an inclusive government."

On his way back to Washington, Pompeo landed at a military base in Qatar for a 75-minute meeting with Taliban officials, including their top negotiator, Mullah Baradar Akhund. Speaking to reporters after departing Qatar, Pompeo declined to detail how the $1bn in aid cuts would be apportioned or whether he set a deadline for Ghani and Abdullah, who had served as the country's chief executive, to settle their dispute. But he indicated that the aid cut could be cancelled if they came to an agreement. In the meantime, he said, the United States would continue backing Afghan security forces while continuing a phased "conditions-based" troop withdrawal as specified in a deal signed with the Taliban in Doha on 29 February.

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