The administration of US President Donald Trump has accused Afghanistan's government of corruption and financial mismanagement, and said it would cut more than $160 million in direct funding to the war-torn country.
"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," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday.
“Due to identified Afghan Government corruption and financial mismanagement, the US Government is returning approximately $100 million to the US Treasury that was intended for a large energy infrastructure project,” he added.
The top US diplomat said the United States was taking back $100 million committed for a major energy project, saying that Washington would instead fund it directly rather than sending the money to Afghan authorities.
He also said the United States would withhold $60 million in planned assistance to Afghanistan's procurement authority.
"We expect the Afghan government to demonstrate a clear commitment to fight corruption, to serve the Afghan people and to maintain their trust," Pompeo said.
"Afghan leaders who fail to meet this standard should be held accountable."
Washington has repeatedly complained of graft in Afghanistan, but the latest criticism comes after new tensions with President Ashraf Ghani over US talks with the Taliban militant group.
Ghani, who is up for re-election on September 28, has voiced strong concern about the talks between the US and Taliban because it has excluded the Afghan government.
The militant group, which now controls or has influence in about half of Afghanistan’s territory, says it does not recognize the government in Kabul.
The Taliban have held several rounds of direct talks with US officials in the Qatari capital Doha since October to pull out American forces in exchange for concessions.
Earlier this month, Trump abruptly canceled secret talks with the Taliban at his Camp David retreat that were planned for September 8 and has since said the talks are “dead”.
Trump called off the negotiations after a US soldier and another NATO service member from Romania were killed in a bombing Thursday in Kabul that was claimed by the Taliban.
Trump has repeatedly advocated for bringing US troops back from Afghanistan. He said last month that the US plans to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan from 14,000 to 8,600 and then will determine further drawdowns.
The administration of former US President George. W. Bush first deployed troops to Afghanistan as part of Washington's so-called war on terror after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.