United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a $1 Billion cut in aid money to Afghanistan on Monday, after internal conflicts between rival leaders could not be ended. At issue are two competing claims to the Presidency of Afghanistan, which are being cited as the reason the American deal with the Taliban is not being accepted by the Afghan people.
As reported by the BBC, the deal brokered by the Americans calls for the American government to pull its troops from the region and pressure NATO forces to retreat as well, and to arrange for a prisoner swap between 1,000 Afghan forces being held by the Taliban and 5,000 terrorist prisoners being held by the Afghan government. In exchange, the Taliban has promised to stop attacking Afghanis outside of the land the Taliban holds and to rule more humanely than they did in the past. They have also promised not to allow Al Qaida to base their operations out of Taliban-controlled territory again.
The Taliban have launched multiple attacks on Afghanistan forces outside of the land they hold since the peace deal was brokered.
The Afghan government has refused to sign on to the agreement, citing national security and terrorism issues.
The United States is currently the largest aid supplier to Afghanistan, providing $5 billion of the $6 billion in aid to the country as tracked by USAID. This was diminished in late 2019 by $160 million, in response to allegations of government corruption. The corruption allegation is at the heart of the current conflict.
The money was withdrawn shortly before the Afghan election. The losing party in the election, Abdullah Abdullah, cited the corruption allegations as one of the pieces of evidence that demonstrated he was the rightful winner of the vote. International bodies continue to recognize President Ashraf Ghani, but the claim by Abdullah has complicated the situation. The United States has attempted to get either Presidential claimant to back the pullout deal, with the presumption that the Americans would then support that President’s hold on the office. To date, neither has been willing to accede to the American plan.
Absent any agreement, the State Department is now lowering aid by another $1 Billion, slashing the defense funds for the American ally.
The shift away from supporting Afghanistan in recent years has been noticed by regional actors. Attempts to broker a peace deal with the Taliban were the primary impetus behind the attack on Indian troops which nearly triggered a Pakistan-India war last year, and China has responded to the retreat of American power by increasing aid to Afghanistan; the South China Morning Post revealed they had provided more than $70 million between 2016 and early 2019 as they attempted to gain a foothold for influence in the area, and in 2019 they offered direct military aid to Afghanistan as part of their Belt and Road initiative.