US slashes support for Afghan troops

Lawmakers rejected the White House’s request for an extra $2.6 billion dollars in 2014 to buy equipment for the Afghan military that would have allowed it to be “better able to take the lead in defending its own country.” 

The $2.6 billion would have come on top of a $5.1 billion "core" request, ahead of the end of the U.S.’s combat mission in Afghanistan by December, for a total of about $7.7 billion. 

However, in the recently passed spending bill, lawmakers approved only $4.7 billion to pay, equip, supply, train and otherwise fund Afghan troops — a reduction from last year's $5.7 billion budget.

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The reduction in funds could make it tougher for Afghan forces to fight Taliban insurgents who are vowing to make a comeback after 2014.  

Defense spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith said the request was not funded since there were leftover funds from last year, but said "DOD is in the process of identifying and assessing potential operational impacts of the proposed Omnibus." 

Congress also did not approve a request for $365 million to buy 15 additional Mi-17 helicopters for the Afghan air force, which are used for air assault, transport, casualty evacuations and training.

There is also a 50 percent cut in the civilian assistance budget for Afghanistan from $2.1 billion to $1.12 billion, Foreign Policy's Situation Report reported Friday. 

Defense officials are playing down the impact of the decisions, saying "it's not uncommon for portions of our budget to go undistributed," since budget estimates are often made years in advance. 

The U.S. and Afghanistan are in the midst of working on a bilateral security agreement that would allow U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014. 

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the agreement until the U.S. agrees to certain preconditions, but the U.S.’s patience is wearing thin, as officials contemplate continued U.S. participation in an unpopular war and a tight fiscal environment.