Sept. 20 (UPI) — The United States cut $100 million in planned aid for Afghanistan while withholding an additional $60 million due to government corruption and mismanagement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
“Government institutions and leaders in Afghanistan must be transparent and accountable,” he said via Twitter on Thursday. “We stand against those who exploit positions of power and influence to deprive people of the benefits of foreign assistance and a more prosperous future.”
In a written statement, Pompeo said the United States will still fulfill its commitment to complete a large-scale energy infrastructure project in the country but will be returning approximately $100 million earmarked for the endeavor to the U.S. Treasury.
The project consists of five substations to transmit power to various major cities in the country, but instead of giving the funds to President Ashraf Ghani’s government, the project will be paid for through an “‘off-budget’ mechanism given the Afghan government’s inability to transparently manage U.S. Government resources.”
An additional $60 million in planned aid was also being withheld from the National Procurement Authority due to the Afghan government’s lack of transparency and accountability in public finance management, he said.
At Al Bateen Airport in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Pompeo said his message to Ghani with pulling the funding was that the United States wants “free and fair elections” in Afghanistan, which are to be held Sept. 28.
“We’re going to do everything we can to support them, and we need every actor in the region — every leader, every citizen in Afghanistan — to work towards that end,” he said. “That’s been our mission there for quite some time.”
Along with the reneging of aid, Pompeo said the United States would cease funding the Afghan’s Monitoring and Evaluation Committee by the end of the year as it is “incapable of being a partner in the international effort to build a better future for the Afghan people,” Pompeo said.
A day earlier, John Bass, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, criticized the NPA for not authorizing the purchase of fuel for the power plant that provides electricity to the capital of Kabul.
“We expect the Afghan government to demonstrate a clear commitment to fight corruption, to serve the Afghan people and to maintain their trust,” Pompeo said in the statement. “Afghan leaders who fail to meet this standard should be held accountable.”
The upcoming election has been a point of contention in Afghanistan as the Taliban has vowed to do what it can to disrupt them, unleashing several bloody attacks in recent days that have killed dozens of people.
U.S. President Donald Trump last week called off peace negotiations with the militant group over U.S. troop withdrawal in the country after one of those attacks killed a U.S. soldier.
Ghani is seeking a second five-year term as president following the 2014 election that was overshadowed by fraud and corruption allegations.