A sum of 1.5 billion USD has been approved to be transferred to build more than 130 km (80 miles) of barriers on the Mexico border. The transfer of funds was approved by the acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. Out of the total reallocation, 604 million USD were meant for Afghan security forces.
Currently, the Afghan security forces are struggling to hold territory against Taliban militants. Earlier this year, 4.9 billion USD was allocated to support these forces and transfer is made as there were savings in their contracts, as per US officials. They added that the policy commitments consumed relatively fewer funds than expected.
The rest of the money will come from a chemical demilitarization program, a retirement account, funds for Pakistan and Air Force programs.
The Secretary mentioned that the funds were drawn from a variety of sources, including cost savings, programmatic changes, and revised requirements, and therefore will have minimal impact on force readiness.
The latest move was opposed by congressional Democrats, who also criticized a transfer of 1 billion USD in military money to fund Republican President Donald Trump’s wall in March.
All 10 Democrats on Senate appropriations subcommittees that handle defense, veterans affairs, and related spending, wrote to Shanahan to oppose the decision. “We are dismayed that the Department has chosen to prioritize a political campaign promise over the disaster relief needs of our service members,” they said.
The United States is in talks with the Taliban to end the 17-year-long war. U.S. and Taliban negotiators wrapped up their sixth round of peace talks on Thursday with “some progress” on a draft agreement for when foreign troops might withdraw.
Lawmakers have hinted they may respond by putting new restrictions on the Pentagon’s authority to move money around, as it has done in the past to deal with natural disasters.