As the entire world is engulfed in the coronavirus epidemic, business still continues with the world leaders as the State Department just announced it was cutting aid to Afghanistan for $1 billion for this year and another $1 billion for next year as well. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was unable to get the Afghan leaders to go to Kabul and uphold their end of the peace agreement.
Afghanistan was to reach an agreement to have a unified government, and they are now backing out of the deal. It is a critical factor in keeping these peace negotiations flowing. Pompeo gave the update upon his return back to the US from speaking with President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the Afghan former chief executive.
The meeting was to bring the two rivals together and come to an agreement as Pompeo was the mediator. Both leaders say they are the legitimate president, and it is destroying the government and the hopes of stopping the war and violence in the region.
Pompeo flying across the world at this time shows how critical it is to bring peace to the nation. It is time the two Afghan leaders quit bickering and come to terms of the agreement. As the US proved how frustrated we are, the cut off from the funds was a slap in the face to wake them up.
Pompeo stated, “The United States is disappointed in them and what their conduct means for Afghanistan and our shared interests. Their failure has harmed U.S.-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonors those Afghan, Americans and coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country. This leadership failure poses a direct threat to U.S. national interests.”
As Mr. Pompeo told reporters about the $1 billion cuts was imminent, but he did not elaborate on where the cuts would be made. On his plane trip back to the US, he continued to tell the reporters, “We are going to continue to do everything we need to do to support those Afghan security forces. It is central.”
Pompeo added, “The money could be restored if Afghan leaders choose to form an inclusive government that can provide security and participates in the peace process.” He also told the reporters the US was still going to send $15 million to help end the coronavirus in Afghanistan.
So what is the hold up on the peace in Afghanistan? Two leaders both believe they are in charge of Afghanistan. Ghani won the election, and on March 9 was inaugurated. Abdullah also declared himself the winner of the election and carried out his own inauguration on the same day as Ghani. Two bitter rivals and both are jealous of each other.
Now that the country is divided, and so are its leaders, Pompeo met with both separately first, then together. The efforts were to try to get the two sitting bulls to work out their differences and work together for a better and united country.
As Mike Pompeo was on his way back to the US, he met with Taliban officials who have held up their agreements. Pompeo told reporters, the Taliban is working for peace better than the Kabul government. This is what the Taliban was trying to explain from the beginning of the peace talks.
The Secretary of State stated, “They committed to reducing violence, and they’ve largely done that. And they are working towards delivering their team to the ultimate negotiations.”
Even though business and US interest proceeded as scheduled, the coronavirus has disrupted much of the process. The major part of the agreement revolves around the release of 1,000 Afghanistan government prisoners and 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The release was supposed to happen March 10 and still has not taken place.
Ghani is now saying he will only release the prisoners in batches as long as the Taliban ceases fire. The Taliban say this was not the agreement. At times, we can see these people act like a group of elementary kids trying to get their way instead of giving a little. Now they are all back to arguing about who is in charge.
Now it is like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is the principal and is coming down hard with the paddle, hence the $1 billion cut on funds. All sides are working out their differences slowly, but the frustration of the coronavirus seems to have played an effect in the negotiations.