Cooperation Continues, But Our Assistance to Afghanistan Not a Blank Cheque: Alice Wells

Amidst peace talks and reconciliation efforts with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Trump administration on Wednesday told a Congressional subcommittee that its assistance to Afghanistan should not be treated as a “blank check”.

“Our assistance is not a blank check”, Alice G Wells Senior State Department Official for South and Central Asian Affairs told House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee for Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation in a prepared statement on Wednesday.

She said that as they seek an end to the war, they are working with the Afghan government to define the parameters of a sustainable, long-term partnership with Afghanistan; civilian assistance will continue to play an important role.
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The sub-committee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing US Interests in South Asia and the FY 2020 Budget on Thursday.

Wells added that they expect the Afghan government will continue on a path of reform, and we will use the Afghanistan Compact as a means to monitor progress and discuss new reform objectives to tackle Afghanistan’s biggest challenges.

Afghanistan, Wells said, has made some progress on benchmarks in the Compact, including the conviction of high-level officials for corruption, independent management of security for the parliamentary elections, and improved government revenue collection. Continued progress is needed, the US diplomat said.

President Donald Trump and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have made clear that their top priority in the region is to end the war in Afghanistan through a sustainable political settlement that ensures that Afghanistan never again serves as a haven for terrorist attacks against the US or its interests.

In recent discussions in Kabul, the Department of State and the Afghan government have agreed to focus US assistance on our highest priorities: furthering the peace process, ensuring Afghanistan does not serve as a terrorist safe haven, promoting Afghan self-reliance, and maintaining Afghan stability.

The US, Wells said, has smaller budgetary request for FY 2020 for Afghanistan and anticipates this having more focused portfolio.

However, significant prior year resources in the pipeline will allow US to avoid programme disruptions as they transition to a smaller portfolio and have flexibility to respond to a political settlement.

Wells explained that they also stand ready to provide humanitarian support as needed, so that a natural disaster or a significant return of refugees won’t undermine Afghanistan’s push for peace and stability, Wells said.

“At the same time, the US is intensifying its engagement with partners, she said.

At last year’s Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, the United States called on donors to begin planning for post-settlement Afghanistan, and several countries have responded, she added.

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