The State Department and the Pentagon are grappling with how to allow more aid money to reach the Afghan people without hurting American military efforts to help the Afghans fight the Taliban.
U.S. officials are weighing whether to allow the money to flow through international organizations, and not to individual Taliban leaders, those officials said.
Some executives at such organizations already allow Taliban supporters, those officials said.
But in the long run, officials said, the State Department will need to prevent aid from going to Taliban leaders. The Taliban have shown no sign of accepting a political settlement to end the 17-year war, and a State Department official said it was too early to discuss whether the U.S. should help support the Taliban.
“How do we help Afghans while at the same time dealing with the existential threat posed by the Taliban?” said the official, who asked not to be named discussing internal deliberations.
Even so, the State Department official stressed, the U.S. will continue to support Afghanistan economically and militarily. The U.S. is sending $4.5 billion to Afghanistan this year, he said.
It is unclear how far the State Department’s deliberations will go, whether the final decision will be on another form of aid or whether the administration will decide to rule out giving money at all.
“We want to make sure that all Afghans benefit from the U.S. support without prejudicing our military strategy,” said an official at the Pentagon, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Previous attempts to provide more aid to Afghanistan have proved politically controversial. In 2016, the Obama administration restricted donations to aid groups that aid Taliban members and commanders. The move provoked a storm of criticism from development groups and international officials.
A month later, in January 2017, the administration allowed aid to move through the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, organizations that work in Afghanistan.
In the months that followed, the State Department ordered the departments of Defense and Treasury to step up coordination on issues involving aid to Afghanistan, but gave no indication that it was altering U.S. aid policy.