WASHINGTON/KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday the United States would withdraw about $100 million earmarked for an energy infrastructure project in Afghanistan and withhold a further $60 million in planned assistance, blaming corruption and a lack of transparency in the country.
Pompeo said in a statement the United States would complete the infrastructure project, but would do so using an "'off-budget' mechanism", faulting Afghanistan for an "inability to transparently manage U.S. government resources".
"Due to identified Afghan government corruption and financial mismanagement, the U.S. Government is returning approximately $100 million to the U.S. Treasury that was intended for a large energy infrastructure project," he added.
The decision comes a day after the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, John Bass, in a tweet called out the country's National Procurement Authority (NPA) for not approving the purchase of fuel for thermal electricity.
Residents of Kabul have accused the NPA of ignoring people's need for energy, as large parts of the city have been without power for more than seven hours every day this month.
Electricity outages have also inflicted losses for manufacturing companies and emergency health services.
"Hearing reports the National Procurement Authority won't authorize fuel purchases for the power plant providing the only electricity in Kabul – even while the U.S. & Resolute Support help Afghan security forces enable repairs to power transmission lines. Could this be true?" Bass said in a tweet on Wednesday.
The power crisis intensified further this week after insurgents attack pylons in northern provinces. About a third of the country has been hit by blackouts.
(Reporting by Makini Brice in Washington DC, Rupam Jain in Kabul; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Alex Richardson)