A wave of shock and anger spread here Tuesday as Afghans learned that U.S. officials plan to cut $1 billion in aid after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a brief visit here Monday, had failed to resolve a power struggle between President Ashraf Ghani and his top political rival that threatens to undermine a future peace accord with Taliban insurgents, the Washington Post reported.
Ghani, in a brief address to the nation, tried to appear calm and in control of the unraveling situation. He assured the public that he would find “contingency” funds to make up for the aid loss and said “the door is still open” to negotiations with Abdullah Abdullah, the rival who has insisted he was cheated out of the presidency in September elections and intends to form a parallel government.
“We offered Dr. Abdullah a significant role in the peace process, but he wanted a system that is not in our constitution, something I do not have the power to change,” Ghani said.
Abdullah, who has unhappily shared power with Ghani for the past five years as chief executive, demanded to be given a higher rank with prime ministerial powers in exchange for abandoning his rogue quest for a separate government.
In a statement Tuesday, Abdullah thanked Pompeo for trying to solve the crisis but said the opportunity created by his visit had not been “used properly.” He said that he still viewed dialogue as the best way to solve problems and that “the restoration of peace is a priority for us.” He declared that Afghan security forces would retain “full impartiality under any situation.”
But Pompeo, who spent hours in discussions with both men but left Monday evening with nothing to show for it, expressed sharp disappointment with them, the Post adds.
In a statement, he said their intransigent conduct “posed a direct threat” to U.S. interests and “dishonors” Afghans and their foreign partners who “sacrificed their lives and treasure” to build “a new future” for the country.
Pompeo said the Trump administration would “begin an immediate review” of all aid to Afghanistan, starting with a reduction of $1 billion this year. He mentioned no details or timing of the cuts, however, and later told reporters he hoped Ghani and Abdullah would “get their act together, and we won’t have to do it.”
In contrast to his harsh rebuke of the leaders in Kabul, Pompeo praised the Taliban after meeting with the group’s top negotiator in Qatar on Monday night. He said that the insurgents had “largely” fulfilled their part of a peace deal signed with U.S. officials there Feb. 29, and that the U.S. government would continue its planned gradual troop withdrawal.