U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday announced a $1 billion cut in U.S. aid to Afghanistan after he failed to convince Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political foe to end a feud that has helped jeopardize a U.S.-led peace effort. Pompeo’s statement came as he flew home from a fruitless day-long effort in Kabul to end competing claims to the presidency by Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.
The US has started withdrawing troops from Afghanistan as part of a deal with the Taliban aimed at bringing peace to the country. The US agreed to reduce its troops from about 12,000 to 8,600 within 135 days of signing the agreement. Drawing back troops was a condition of the historic peace deal signed by the US and the Taliban on 29 February.
Two political rivals in Afghanistan – who both claim they won the presidential election – plan to hold inauguration ceremonies on Monday. Abdullah Abdullah said he would postpone his ceremony – but only if incumbent Ashraf Ghani followed suit. But Mr Ghani’s team said their inauguration would go ahead this afternoon, suggesting both ceremonies will still take place. Mr Ghani has been president since 2014. Afghanistan’s election commission said he won the election.
The United States conducted an airstrike on Wednesday against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, the first such attack since a troop withdrawal agreement was signed between the two sides on Saturday. The Taliban fighters were “were actively attacking an (Afghan National Security Forces) checkpoint. This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack,” said Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan in a tweet.
The United States and the Taliban signed a historic deal Saturday aimed at winding down America’s longest war. With Secretary of State Mike Pompeo watching, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban’s political chief, Abdul Ghani Baradar, signed a deal in Doha, Qatar, to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. In exchange, the Taliban is assuring it will not allow Afghanistan to be used by terrorists to attack the United States.
Ashraf Ghani has won a second term as president of Afghanistan, the country’s independent election commission announced Tuesday, more than four months after polls closed. The commission said Ghani garnered 923,592 votes, or 50.64 percent, in the election that took place last Sept. 28. Challenger and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah received 720,841 votes or 39.52 percent.
Afghan security units backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have carried out extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, indiscriminate air strikes and other rights abuses and should be disbanded, a rights group said on Thursday. Human Rights Watch said it investigated 14 cases in which CIA-backed Afghan counterinsurgency forces committed serious abuses in Afghanistan between late 2017 and mid-2019.
A bomb exploded in a mosque in eastern Afghanistan during Friday prayers, officials said, killing at least 29 men who had gathered for worship. Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the provincial council in Nangarhar, said at least 29 people had been killed and more than 100 others wounded. “The number of casualties may rise as the rescue team and people are working to bring out the bodies from the rubble,” Qaderi added.
A US drone strike intended to hit an Islamic State hideout in Afghanistan has killed at least 30 civilians who were resting after harvesting pine nuts. Afghanistan’s defense ministry and a senior US official in Kabul confirmed the drone strike. Haidar Khan, who owns the pine nut fields, said about 150 workers were there for harvesting, with some still missing as well as the confirmed dead and injured.
At least 48 people have been killed and dozens more wounded in two separate attacks in Afghanistan – one at a campaign rally by President Ashraf Ghani and the other in the capital, Kabul. In the first blast on Tuesday, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle targeted the rally by Ghani, who is reported to be safe and unharmed.