Are the rich Western countries determined to starve the Afghan people?
On January 11, 2022, the United Nations (UN) Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, called on the international community to help raise $4.4 billion for Afghanistan in humanitarian aid, call this effort, “the largest ever appeal to a single country for humanitarian assistance”. This amount is needed “in the hope of strengthening the basic services that are collapsing there”, noted the UN. If that call is not met, Griffiths said, then “next year  we will ask for $10 billion.
The $10 billion figure is significant. A few days after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in mid-August 2021, the American government announcement the seizure of $9.5 billion in Afghan assets held in the US banking system. Under pressure from the US government, the International Monetary Fund has also refuse Afghanistan’s access to $455 million from its special drawing rights, the international reserve asset that the IMF provides to its member countries to supplement their initial reserves. Those two figures – which make up Afghanistan’s currency reserves – amount to about $10 billion, the exact amount Griffiths said the country would need if the United Nations did not immediately secure an emergency disbursement. to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
A recent To analyse by development economist Dr. William Byrd for the American Institute of Peace, titled “How to Mitigate the Economic and Humanitarian Crises in Afghanistan”, noted that the economic and humanitarian crises facing the country are the direct result the cutting of $8 billion in annual aid to Afghanistan and the freezing of $9.5 billion of the country’s “foreign exchange reserves” by the United States. Further analysis Noted that sanctions relief – granted by the US Treasury Department and the United Nations Security Council on December 22, 2021 – to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan should also be extended to “private business and commercial transactions.” Byrd also mentioned the need to find ways to pay the salaries of health workers, teachers and other essential service providers to avoid an economic collapse in Afghanistan and suggested using “a combination of Afghan revenue and funding aid” to this end.
Meanwhile, the idea of directly paying salaries to teachers emerged in early December 2021 Encounter between UN Special Envoy for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai. None of these proposals, however, seem to have been taken seriously in Washington, D.C.
A humanitarian crisis
In July 2020, before the pandemic hit the country hard, and long before the Taliban returned to power in Kabul, the Afghan Ministry of Economy had noted that 90% of the country’s inhabitants lived below the international poverty line of $2 a day. Meanwhile, since the start of its war in Afghanistan in 2001, the United States government has spent $2.313 trillion for its war efforts, according to figures provided by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs; but despite having spent 20 years in the country’s war, the United States government spent only $145 billion for the reconstruction of the country’s institutions, according to its own estimates. In August, before the Taliban defeated U.S. military forces, the U.S. government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) issued an important report which assessed the money spent by the United States for the development of the country. The report’s authors wrote that despite some modest gains, “progress has been elusive and the prospects for sustaining that progress are dubious.” the report pointed to the lack of development of a coherent strategy by the U.S. government, overreliance on foreign aid, and pervasive corruption in the U.S. procurement process as some of the reasons that ultimately led to an “effort to troubled reconstruction” in Afghanistan. This resulted in a huge waste of resources for Afghans, who desperately needed them to rebuild their country, which had been destroyed by years of war.
On December 1, 2021, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) released a report on the devastating situation in Afghanistan. Over the last decade of US occupation, the annual per capita income in Afghanistan has risen from $650 in 2012 to around $500 in 2020 and is expected to drop to $350 in 2022 if the population grows at the same rate as in a recent past. . The country’s gross domestic product will contract by 20% in 2022, followed by a 30% decline in subsequent years. The following phrases from the UNDP report are worth quoting in full to understand the scale of the humanitarian crisis facing the people of the country: have… reached a record 23 million. Nearly 14 million children are at risk of facing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity this winter, 3.5 million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition and 1 million children are at risk of starvation and low temperatures.
This humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan is the reason for the appeal launched on January 11 to the international community by the UN. On December 18, 2021, the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) tenuous an emergency meeting – requested by Saudi Arabia – on Afghanistan in Islamabad, Pakistan. Outside the meeting room – which produced only a statement – the various foreign ministers encounter with Afghan Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. While in Islamabad, Muttaqi encounter with the United States Special Representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West. A senior official of the American delegation Recount Kamran Yousaf of the Express Tribune (Pakistan), “We have been working quietly to allow cash… [to come into] the land in bigger and bigger denominations. A foreign minister present at the OIC meeting told me that OIC states were already working quietly to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
Four days later, on December 22, the United States introduced a UN Security Council resolution (2615) that called for a “humanitarian exception” to tough sanctions against Afghanistan. During the meeting, which lasted about 40 minutes, no one raised the fact that the United States, which proposed the resolution, had decided to freeze the $10 billion that belonged to Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the adoption of this resolution was widely celebrated because everyone understands the seriousness of the Afghan crisis. Meanwhile, Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the UN, raised problems related to the far-reaching effects of these sanctions and urged the council to “guide the Taliban to consolidate the interim structures, enabling them to maintain security and stability, and promote reconstruction and recovery”.
A senior official of the Afghan central bank (Da Afghanistan Bank) told me that much-needed resources should flow into the country as part of the humanitarian aid provided by Afghanistan’s neighbours, particularly China, Iran and Pakistan (help from India will come through Iran). Help also came from other neighboring countries, such as Uzbekistan, which shipped 3,700 tons of food, fuel and winter clothing, and Turkmenistan, which shipped fuel and food. In early January 2022, Muttaqi traveled to Tehran, Iran to meet with Iran’s Foreign Minister. Hossein Amirabdollahian and Iran’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Hassan Kazemi Qomi. Although Iran has not recognized the Taliban government as the official government of Afghanistan, it has been in close contact with the government “to help the destitute people of Afghanistan to reduce their suffering”. Muttaqi, meanwhile, stressed that his government wants to engage the major powers on the future of Afghanistan.
On January 10, the day before the last UN appeal for aid in Afghanistan, a group of charities and NGOs, organized by the Zakat Foundation of America—organized an Afghan task force for peace and humanitarian aid Encounter in Washington. The biggest concern is the humanitarian crisis facing the Afghan people, including the looming issue of famine in the country, with roads already closed due to the harsh winter the region is experiencing.
In November 2021, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai urged the United States to reopen its embassy in Kabul; a few weeks later he noted that the United States is responsible for the crisis in Afghanistan, and that it “should play an active role” in repairing the damage it has caused to the country. This sums up the current mindset in Afghanistan: open to relations with the United States, but only after allowing the Afghan people access to the nation’s money in order to save Afghan lives.
This article was produced by Globetrotter. Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is editor and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is the editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a non-resident principal investigator at Chongyang Institute of Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written over 20 books, including darkest nations and The poorest nations. His latest book is Washington Bullets, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.