The United States on Thursday accused the Afghanistan government of failing to fight corruption, and said it will cut $160 million (Rs 1,142 crore) in aid to the country, AFP reported.

“We stand against those who exploit their positions of power and influence to deprive the Afghan people of the benefits of foreign assistance and a more prosperous future,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. Afghanistan is set to hold its presidential elections on September 28.

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

Pompeo said the US has decided to take back $100 million committed for a major energy project. He said that the US will fund the project directly instead of sending the money to Afghan authorities. The secretary of state added that Washington will withhold $60 million in planned assistance to Afghanistan’s procurement authority.

The United States had earlier this month decided to pull out of peace talks with the Taliban, citing the killing of 16 people, including an American soldier, by the terror group. However, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday asked the US to resume talks with the Taliban.

“Today I am calling on the US government to resume peace talks with the Taliban,” he said according to Tolo News. “From the beginning, talks should be transparent and clear.”

“By conducting attacks and killing Afghans you will not defeat the US in Afghanistan…we will have peace when we come together,” Ghani told the Taliban. “No one wants an interim government in Afghanistan, it’s not in anyone’s interest. We want peace in Afghanistan.”

US calls for transparency in elections

On Wednesday, the US had called for credible elections in Afghanistan. “Along with other international donors, we have called repeatedly for the Afghan government and electoral institutions to make preparations for a credible and transparent presidential election,” a statement by the US Department of State had said. It added that the outcome should reflect the choice of the voters who “risk their lives to participate in elections”. “Coalition forces and donors who have sacrificed to give Afghans the ability to choose their leaders deserve to have this confidence as well,” said the department.

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