The US said it would cut assistance to Afghanistan by US$1 billion this year and threatened more cuts could come as a breakdown in talks over forming a unity government threatened to derail a US-engineered peace deal.
Hours after departing Kabul on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement saying that the US “deeply regrets” the failure of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and former Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah to form a unity government.
He said that the US is imposing the US$1 billion cut in assistance because of the breakdown, which dates from disputed national elections late last year.
“Their failure has harmed US-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,” Pompeo said, adding that Washington could cut aid by another US$1 billion in 2021.
The US has earmarked US$4.35 billion in funding for this year, a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report released on Jan. 30 said.
The inability of Afghan leaders to broker an agreement imperils a peace deal reached between the US and the Taliban last month to bring an end to what has become the US’ longest war. The deal reached in Doha was expected to lead to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban starting on about March 10, a deadline that has already passed.
In a televised address to the nation yesterday, Ghani said that the government would ensure the US actions would not affect key sectors.
“The US has not yet cut the aid, but they made it conditional and we will make efforts to convince them through dialogue and negotiations” to not withdraw that support, Ghani said.
Even with Ghani and Abdullah both claiming victory in last year’s election, the peace deal called for a team of Afghan representatives that was expected to include more than just government officials.
That opened the door to Ghani and Abdullah being represented in talks with the Taliban, but the politics of achieving that have, so far, proved elusive.
“They still can’t see their way towards putting together the team, an inclusive team,” Pompeo told reporters on his plane en route back to the US. “That’s why you see in our statement that we are disappointed that they’ve not been able to do that.”
However, he suggested that the US could revisit its decision to cut aid.
“We are hopeful, frankly, that they will get their act together and we won’t have to do it,” he said.
Passengers on domestic flights would not be allowed to board if their temperature is more than 37.5°C or if they refuse to have their temperatures taken, Uni Air (立榮航空) and Mandarin Airlines (華信航空) said yesterday. The two airlines made the announcement after their parent companies — EVA Airways (長榮航空) and China Airlines (CAL, 中華航空) respectively — announced similar pre-boarding requirements on Saturday, along with a requirement that passengers wear masks during their flights, except when they have meals or drinks. Uni Air and Mandarin Airlines said domestic passengers would be required to wear masks from the time they start using self-help
CASE COUNT RISES: One of the new domestic cases is a nurse at a long-term care center, but so far tests on all the residents and other staff have been negative Flight transits through all Taiwanese airports would be banned for two weeks, starting tomorrow, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday as it announced 16 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the nation’s total to 169. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), head of the center, said all flight transits would be banned through April 7. In light of the rapidly increasing number of imported COVID-19 cases, there was a need to further reduce cross-border travel and the risk of disease transmission, the center said. The Civil Aeronautics Administration has informed airlines about the new measures, and anyone who has
A public health expert yesterday warned that too many people are meeting in small groups in coffee shops and restaurants without keeping a proper distance from one another, as he urged the government to loosen the criteria for testing young Taiwanese returning from abroad for COVID-19. People need to keep a social distance of at least 2m, National Taiwan University (NTU) College of Public Health dean Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權) said as the college presented its seventh weekly report on COVID-19 at a morning news conference. More than 300,000 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported in more than three-quarters of all
MORE CASES EXPECTED: Many young Taiwanese would be returning home over the next two weeks, as schools in many nations closed, the health minister said Twenty-six new COVID-19 cases were confirmed yesterday, including five clusters, and all but one were imported, bringing Taiwan’s total number to 195, as border controls and home quarantine measures prove their effectiveness, the head of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said. Twelve of the new cases were in people tested at airports upon their return, 11 were in people under home quarantine and two were people who tested positive after seeking medical treatment, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said at its daily news conference. “The new domestic case is a woman who lives with