After decades of armed conflict, Afghanistan is more dependent than ever on financial support from abroad. From now on, at least from the United States, less money will flow into the country. Because the United States is cutting aid by one billion dollars (930 million euros) because of the ongoing dispute over the presidency in Afghanistan.
This was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday after a visit to Kabul. There he had met head of state Ashraf Ghani and his arch-rival Abdullah Abdullah, who have both claimed the presidency since the election last year.
The United States is “disappointed” with the behavior of the two Afghan rivals, Pompeo said. The failure to form a unified government “damaged” US-Afghanistan relations. According to the US Secretary of State, the $ 1 billion in aid is to be removed with immediate effect, followed by another $ 1 billion cut in the coming year.
After visiting Kabul, Pompeo traveled to Qatar on Monday for talks with radical Islamic Taliban leaders. At the al-Udeid airbase, which is used by U.S. and other armed forces in the Gulf state, the U.S. chief diplomat met Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Baradar, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said. Pompeo had urged “compliance with the agreement signed last month”.
US troops are reduced – prisoners are to be exchanged
The agreement provides that, as a first step, the United States will reduce its troop strength in Afghanistan from more than 12,000 to 8,600 soldiers within 135 days and close five of its approximately 20 bases in the country. In return, the Taliban are said to provide guarantees that they will fight the al-Qaida terror network and the “Islamic State” jihadist militia, and that peace negotiations with the Afghan government will begin.
The United States has already started withdrawing from Afghanistan. A key element of the agreement is an exchange of prisoners between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Up to 5,000 Taliban fighters are to be released, as are up to a thousand abducted Afghan soldiers.
However, because the government and the insurgents disagree on the arrangements for exchanging prisoners, this point has not yet been implemented. The first talks between the government and the Taliban about the prisoner exchange took place on Saturday.
Despite the signing of the agreement between the US government and the Taliban, violence in Afghanistan has recently increased significantly. The insurgents carried out dozens of attacks across the country, killing Afghan forces and civilians.