Thursday, January 23, 2014

U.S. eyes options for Afghanistan after Congress cuts aid --- (Reuters) - The Obama administration is considering ways to ensure future financial assistance for Afghanistan after U.S. lawmakers halved development aid to the country. -- In a massive spending bill signed into law on Friday by President Barack Obama, lawmakers provided $1.12 billion to Afghanistan for fiscal 2014 for overall civilian assistance, a 50 percent reduction from the previous fiscal year. It was still unclear, however, how much aid the country would actually receive for 2014. -- U.S. officials said they were looking at the details of the bill, and would also explore if they could use unspent money from the previous year or from elsewhere in the budget to increase the amount of funding for Afghanistan. -- "While overall levels for the major civilian assistance accounts have been reduced, the bill itself does not include any specific cap for Afghanistan," an official at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said on condition of anonymity. -- "Over the next few months, we will finalize bilateral assistance totals for the fiscal year," using a summary that accompanied the legislation as a guide, the official said. -- The summary also suggests that USAID and the State Department could supplement the $1.12 billion with unspent funds from fiscal 2013, but it was not immediately clear how much flexibility that might give them. -- "While everyone was expecting a cut, no one was expecting it to be 50 percent. That sets a dangerous precedent that might be hard to reverse in coming years," said Andrew Wilder, who directs Afghanistan and Pakistan programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace and spent years working in the region. - More, Missy Ryan, at:


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