Exclusive: U.S. has not cut Afghan security funds despite Pompeo vow of immediate slash - sources

By Arshad Mohammed, Jonathan Landay and Idrees Ali WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S.

Reuters May 21, 2020 03:11:03 IST
Exclusive: U.S. has not cut Afghan security funds despite Pompeo vow of immediate slash - sources

Exclusive US has not cut Afghan security funds despite Pompeo vow of immediate slash  sources

By Arshad Mohammed, Jonathan Landay and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department has not withheld $1 billion in funding from Afghan security forces despite Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's vow on March 23 to cut that sum "immediately", five sources familiar with the matter said.

The Pentagon has been reluctant to shave the funds announced by Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper has not provided guidance to his agency on how to carry it out, three sources told Reuters.

It was unclear why the cut has not been made, whether President Donald Trump's administration may have decided not to reduce the funding - no such policy change has been announced - or if there was some disconnect between the State and Defense Departments.

The White House National Security Council referred queries to the Defense and State Departments. The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A Pentagon spokesman did not directly address why the cuts had not been made immediately, and said that the State and Defense Departments were working on how to carry them out.

"Secretary Esper supports the Department of State efforts to encourage the Afghanistan government to move forward with the inter-Afghan peace process," said Army Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell.

A fourth source, a U.S. official, said while the Pentagon was concerned about the cut Esper and senior department officials had signed off on Pompeo's decision.

This official also said senior Pentagon officials were not blindsided by Pompeo's statement, issued as he flew home after being frustrated in his efforts to persuade Afghan leaders to form a power-sharing government during a trip to Kabul.

"There have been no reductions of any funding for this year," said a congressional aide. "As far as I can tell, it was a food fight between State and DoD ... DoD continues to say 'we have received no guidance.'"

The five sources included two congressional aides, two U.S. officials and one source familiar with the matter. All spoke on condition of anonymity.

The two U.S. officials said U.S. funds continued to flow unabated to the Afghan security forces.

   Pentagon officials - from mid-level staffers to political appointees - and U.S. commanders in Afghanistan have repeatedly been asked to give Congress details of how the cut would be made and have responded that Esper has not given them any guidance, said a second congressional aide.

An aide to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he asked top national security officials to prepare a contingency plan and to cut extraneous expenses after Pompeo's announcement.

In addition, Pompeo also threatened to slash another $1 billion next year and a broad review of all U.S. aid https://tmsnrt.rs/2JEbypR to Afghanistan.

"We are today announcing a responsible adjustment to our spending in Afghanistan and immediately reducing assistance by $1 billion this year," he wrote in his March 23 statement.

Pompeo has declined to publicly detail how the cut would be made. Sources have told Reuters the $1 billion would come from a $4.2 billion Pentagon fund that underwrites about three quarters of the Afghan security forces' annual budget.

A U.S. defense official previously described "huge concern" within the Pentagon about slashing that funding, which chiefly covers salaries, food, fuel, equipment and infrastructure for Afghan troops and police.

Ghani and rival Abdullah Abdullah on Saturday signed a power-sharing deal to end a stalemate that had threatened to undermine U.S. efforts to withdraw its troops and nurture a peace process to end four decades of war.

Their impasse delayed movement toward peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban that were to have begun on March 10 under a Feb. 29 troop withdrawal agreement between the United States and the militant group.

The main provisions of that pact - to which the Afghan government was not a party - involved a U.S. commitment to reduce its military footprint in Afghanistan to 8,600 by mid-July and, conditions permitting, to zero by May 2021.

Trump wants to bring U.S. troops home to end the longest conflict in American history and to tout it as an achievement in his re-election campaign ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed, Jonathan Landay and Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul and Rupam Jain in Islamabad; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:


also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.