US to cut $4 bn Afghan aid over corruption fears

US lawmakers vote to cut around USD 4 billion in aid to Afghan government.

Washington: US lawmakers have voted to slash around USD 4 billion in aid to Afghan government in the wake of allegations of corruption.

On Monday, a key US House of Representatives Democrat had announced she was cutting billions of dollars in aid to Afghanistan from spending legislation because she is outraged over reports of corruption and donor aid being flown out the country.

Representative Nita Lowey, who heads the House appropriations subcommittee on foreign aid, vowed not to spend "one more dime" on aid to Afghanistan until she can be sure it is not being abused.

The Democrat also announced hearings on corruption in Afghanistan, where the Obama administration is trying to work with the government of President Hamid Karzai to confront the Taliban insurgency.

An aide to Lowey said the Obama administration requested USD 3.9 billion for the accounts affected in the fiscal 2011 foreign aid appropriations bill before Lowey`s committee.

Lowey said in her statement she would only leave "lifesaving humanitarian aid" in the bill, which her committee will consider on Wednesday.

Her statement comes amid increasing doubts among US lawmakers about President Barack Obama`s six-month-old troop buildup strategy against a resurgent Taliban.

She acted after a Wall Street Journal report on Monday said more than USD 3 billion in cash had been flown out of Kabul airport in the past three years, and that US investigators think some of the money being flown out to safe havens is diverted US aid.

On the same day, a report in the Washington Post said that top officials in Karzai`s government have repeatedly derailed corruption investigations of politically connected Afghans.

"The alleged shipment of billions in donor funds out of Afghanistan and allegations of Afghan government insiders impeding corruption investigations are outrageous," Lowey said.

"I do not intend to appropriate one more dime for assistance to Afghanistan until I have confidence that US taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords, and terrorists," she said.

Lowey said she would have hearings after Congress` recess next week to "get to the bottom" of corruption allegations in Afghanistan.

The stripped-out assistance would include economic support funds for Afghanistan and money for things like narcotics control, military education and training, health and anti-terrorism, an aide said.

Bureau Report

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