US State Dept: Funds Withheld Because of Corruption

“We stand against those who exploit their positions of power and influence to deprive the Afghan people of the benefits of foreign assistance and a more prosperous future,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. — Reuters  File

"The bomb was huge and it was carried by a mini-truck", said a senior defence ministry official in the capital, Kabul, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to media.

The attack on Wednesday night also injured 40 people after accidentally targeting farmers and labourers who had just finished collecting pine nuts at mountainous Wazir Tangi in eastern Nangarhar province, three Afghan officials told Reuters.

"U.S. forces conducted a drone strike against Da'esh (IS) terrorists in Nangarhar", stated Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan.

Washington is rescinding $160 million directed to Afghanistan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday, citing unacceptable levels of corruption in the Afghan government.

However, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday asked the USA to resume talks with the Taliban.

In a series of tweets earlier this month, US President Donald Trump said he was calling off secret meetings with Taliban representatives and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David in Maryland.

Separately on Thursday, the United States announced it was withdrawing about $100m earmarked for an Afghan energy project and would withhold another $60m in planned assistance. "Afghan leaders who fail to meet this standard should be held accountable".

The United States had earlier this month made a decision to pull out of peace talks with the Taliban, citing the killing of 16 people, including an American soldier, by the terror group.

Trump, who had controversially invited both the Taliban and Ghani to the United States, eventually declared the talks dead, citing an attack by the insurgents that killed a U.S. soldier.

The decision comes one day after the USA ambassador to Afghanistan, John Bass, called out the National Procurement Authority on Twitter for not approving the purchase of fuel for thermal electricity.

The department said it expects the Afghan government to demonstrate a clear commitment to fighting corruption, and to serving the Afghan people and maintaining their trust.

But they also left the door open for talks to resume.

"We've learned that the President up-ended the deal and we have learned that the peace deal evidently is dead", Representative Eliot Engel, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said on Thursday.

The United States under the counter-terrorism operation in Afghanistan continues to conduct air strikes against the Islamist Taliban insurgents and the Islamic State group fighters.



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