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Sat Jan 25, 2014, 12:39 PM

Congress cuts U.S. military and development aid for Afghanistan


Congress cuts U.S. military and development aid for Afghanistan
By Ernesto Londoño and Karen DeYoung, Published: January 24

With no perceptible opposition from the Obama administration, Congress has quietly downscaled Washington’s ambitions for the final year of the Afghan war, substantially curtailing development aid and military assistance plans ahead of the U.S. troop pullout.

As congressional appropriators put the final touches on a huge spending bill in recent weeks, they slashed Afghanistan development aid by half and barred U.S. defense officials from embarking on major new infrastructure projects. After making a bid last year for $2.6 billion worth of “critical” capabilities such as mobile strike vehicles for Afghan security forces, the Pentagon agreed it could do with just 40 percent of what it had sought.

The Obama administration had long hoped to bring the Afghan war to a dignified conclusion this year and viewed the president’s State of the Union speech Tuesday as an opportunity to describe the end of America’s longest war as a foreign policy success. But Washington’s appetite to remain engaged in Afghanistan appears to be eroding precipitously, in large part because of how poisonous its relationship with the country’s president has become.

The prevailing sentiment in Washington toward President Hamid Karzai, who has thus far refused to sign a security agreement that would keep U.S. troops and funding in Afghanistan beyond 2014, was even codified in the Afghan portion of the spending bill, which was drawn up without significant public debate.

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