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U.S. cuts $160M in Afghan aid over government ‘corruption’

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Sept. 20 (UPI) — The United States has cut $100 million in planned aid for Afghanistan and is withholding an additional $60 million due to government corruption and mismanagement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

In a written statement, Pompeo said the United States will still fulfill its commitment to complete a large-scale energy infrastructure project in the Middle Eastern nation, but will rescind funds earmarked for the endeavor.

Government institutions and leaders in Afghanistan must be transparent and accountable,” Pompeo tweeted Thursday. “We stand against those who exploit positions of power and influence to deprive people of the benefits of foreign assistance and a more prosperous future.”

The energy project consists of five substations to transmit power to various major cities in the country, but the project will be now paid for through an “”off-budget’ mechanism given the Afghan government‘s inability to transparently manage U.S. government resources.”

An additional $60 million in planned aid will be withheld from the National Procurement Authority for the same reason, Pompeo said.

Afghanistan is set to stage new elections next week. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is seeking a second five-year term, following his 2014 election that was overshadowed by fraud and corruption accusations.

“We expect the Afghan government to demonstrate a clear commitment to fight corruption, to serve the Afghan people and to maintain their trust,” Pompeo said. “Afghan leaders who fail to meet this standard should be held accountable.”

The chief U.S. diplomat also said the United States would cease funding the Afghan’s Monitoring and Evaluation Committee by the end of the year, as it is “incapable of being a partner in the international effort to build a better future for the Afghan people.”

Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass criticized the NPA for not authorizing the purchase of fuel for a power plant that provides electricity to Kabul.

The upcoming election has been a point of contention in Afghanistan as the Taliban has vowed to do what it can to disrupt them, unleashing several attacks in recent days that have killed dozens.

U.S. President Donald Trump last week called off peace negotiations with the militant group a U.S. soldier was killed in an attack attributed to the Taliban.

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