The U.S. administration says it is working with Congress to provide “nearly $300 million”” in additional civilian assistance for Afghanistan in 2021 to promote economic growth, help fight corruption, and support “women’s empowerment,” civil society, and independent media, among other initiatives.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on April 21 that the new aid from both the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development was intended to “demonstrate our enduring support for the Afghan people.”
The funding “will be targeted at sustaining and building on gains in the past 20 years by improving access to essential services for Afghan civilians,” according to Blinken.
The move follows President Joe Biden’s announcement last week that the United States plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by September 11.
The previous administration under Donald Trump in November 2020 pledged $600 million in aid for Afghanistan, but it withheld half the funds, making their release conditional on progress in intra-Afghan peace talks in Qatar.
The talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, aimed at ending decades of war in the country, have been deadlocked for months.
Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Washington to commit to expanded support for human rights in Afghanistan amid what it calls “fears of increased insecurity” fueled by its declared plan to withdraw its troops from the country.
The Biden administration “should boost assistance for education and health, especially for girls and women, and for independent media given the threat of a widening conflict that undermines human rights gains and exacerbates the country’s humanitarian crisis,” the New York-based human rights watchdog said in a statement.
But HRW said that previous U.S. administrations “have not made human rights in Afghanistan a sufficient priority,” and noted that U.S. assistance to vital aid programs in the country has been “shrinking.”
With reporting by Reuters