Trump administration eyes Afghan security forces funding for aid cut: report

Trump administration eyes Afghan security forces funding for aid cut: report
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A proposed cut of $1 billion in U.S. aid to Afghanistan would come out of funds earmarked for Afghan security forces, three U.S. sources told Reuters.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSchumer slams Trump's Rose Garden briefing on China as 'pathetic' Britain mulls pathway to citizenship for more than 3M inhabitants of Hong Kong Overnight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in MORE announced the aid reduction in late March, with a threat to make a similar cut next year, in an attempt to force President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah to end their dispute over the 2019 presidential election, but had not publicly stated where it would be cut from.

Both Ghani and Abdullah claimed to have won the election and each staged inaugurations. Pompeo has said the State Department may reverse the planned cut if they resolve the disagreement, which has thrown a wrench into peace talks with the Taliban by preventing the naming of an Afghan delegation.

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Two congressional aides told the news service State Department officials have told Congress the cut would come out of a $4.2 billion Defense Department fund that comprises about 75 percent of Afghan security forces’ yearly budget. One aide said the money is necessary to prepare the forces to hold off the Taliban, calling the decision “against U.S. national security interests.”

Congress has appropriated more than $80 billion for security assistance to Afghan forces since fiscal 2002 and a former U.S. military official told Reuters the security forces fund was “the only fund large enough to support a $1 billion cut.”

In contrast, the State Department requested about $532.8 million for civilian aid.

Three days after Pompeo made the threat, Ghani announced a negotiation team composed of political allies of Abdullah, with his rival endorsing them five days later.

“That is the pain point. That is what they care about a lot,” a U.S. defense official told Reuters, adding that if the cuts take effect this year and next, Afghan security forces “will be toast.”

The Hill has reached out to the State Department for comment.