WASHINGTON, Sept 3 (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress is likely to fund the U.N. and other agencies that provide humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, but there is virtually no chance of directly funding a new government led by the Taliban, congressional aides said Friday.
The United States has been a massive funder of Afghanistan since its 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban, setting aside about $130 billion for security, governance and development and humanitarian needs.
Aides to Democrats who control both houses of Congress and Republicans said lawmakers were almost certain to provide humanitarian aid to Afghans and internally displaced refugees, but not to the government itself, at least for now .
“It would be difficult to convince members of Congress to do anything that appears to support the Taliban government,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide, citing the lack of oversight and reluctance “to support a government that is anathema to us.”
A senior Senate Republican aide agrees.
“Republicans will absolutely not support giving money to the Taliban,” the Republican aide said, saying they didn’t want to provide money until Americans and Afghans who worked with the United States could leave Afghanistan.
While aides said there was an understanding that agencies such as the World Food Program and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees needed funds, the Republican said lawmakers wanted strict conditions on how to spend.
“There needs to be a distinct look at what this is going to be and how it will flow,” he said.
For the 2022 fiscal year starting Oct. 1, Congress set aside $136.45 million in the Economic Support Fund, which the Democratic aide said was the source to underwrite Afghan government salaries, and $52.03 million for Afghan humanitarian aid, according to the US special inspector general for Afghanistan. Reconstruction.
Aid workers have almost ruled out contributing to the salaries of Afghan civil servants who, working under a Taliban-led government, could oversee basic services such as running schools, health clinics and hospitals.
“It’s hard for me to imagine that happening, in part because how do we know the funds didn’t end up in the wrong hands?” said the former Senate Democratic aide.
The aide said Congress could appropriate as much as the $144 million to $279 million it has set aside annually over the past decade for Afghan humanitarian needs, depending on what U.N. agencies and others determine is necessary
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether to request additional funds for Afghanistan.
Taliban sources said the group’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will lead a new government to be announced soon. His first task may be to stop the collapse of an economy faced by drought and the ravages of a 20-year war. read more
Taliban fighters entered Kabul on August 15. A massive US airlift has brought in about 124,000 Americans, other foreigners and Afghans at risk from the militant group’s takeover.
Reporting By Arshad Mohammed, Patricia Zengerle and Jonathan Landay; Writing by Arshad Mohammed Editing by Sonya Hepinstall
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