Source Atlantic Council
WASHINGTON, U.S.--The alarm bells are sounding.
The United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the donor community have all been warning of the humanitarian catastrophe emerging with the imminent collapse of the Afghan economy.
The banking system is on the verge of collapse as well, and the currency (the afghani) is losing value rapidly.
Add to this a prolonged drought, a raging COVID-19 pandemic, and the disintegration of government services.
The UN’s humanitarian chief laments that Afghanistan’s economy is unravelling “before our eyes.”
The international community is gearing up to provide increased humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, and the World Bank is releasing some funds to support this effort. But more help is needed to stave off disaster.
Health professionals, teachers, and other essential workers need to be paid if the most basic functions of the state are to be maintained. Ordinary Afghans deserve access to their own funds, now frozen in banks wary of US and international sanctions and the potential collapse of the Afghan financial system.
The Biden administration, like other donors to Afghanistan, is rightly reluctant to do anything that helps the Taliban impose its repressive rule on the country, underscored by recent reports of extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
The longer decisions are postponed, the more difficult it will become to prevent the looming humanitarian catastrophe in the country and the deaths of many Afghans.
During the past twenty years, all of us have led American diplomatic and military efforts to support the emergence of a more modern, prosperous, and democratic Afghanistan. We are much more than dissatisfied with the results, and many of us disagreed with the US decision to withdraw from the country.
We believe the United States and its allies can and should be working in a more concerted manner both behind the scenes and publicly to send clear messages to Taliban leaders relating to core issues like counterterrorism cooperation, broadening non-Taliban representation within the government, and upholding the basic rights of women, people of all ethnic groups, notably minorities, and Afghans closely associated with the United States and other partners.
We believe the United States has a reputational interest and a moral obligation in vigorously joining efforts to help the Afghan people preserve at least some of the social and economic gains made over the last twenty years.
We believe that ways to do so can be found, while erecting barriers to assistance being diverted to purposes other than those for which it is intended.
We therefore recommend that the Biden administration expedite its consideration of these issues and, working in close coordination with key allies, come forward with tangible proposals to help stabilise the Afghan economy for discussion with other donors and ultimately presentation to the Taliban. Delay will only fuel more death and suffering.