The disaster staring at Afghan peopletext_fields
Ever since the Taliban took over rule in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, displacing the US military, the only thing the world generally seeks to know is whether women there have stopped wearing the veil and girls have started going to school. The new Taliban-led Afghan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid's promise soon after taking power that girls would have a chance to go to school and women to work, has not been kept. Moreover, despite improvements in women's rights, the government has not made any remarkable progress on that score. However, a year after independence from the US occupation, the main problem facing Afghanistan today is its economic and humanitarian crisis. And it is not difficult to find that this is almost a creation of imperialism. From September 11, 2001 to August 30, 2021, there was 20 years of US dominance on Afghan soil. Although US forces have now left, the July 31 assassination of al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri by drone inside Afghanistan is testimony to the fact that modern technology-aided military prowess can make up for physical presence to carry out an attack. Economic sanctions are another threat that can squeeze a country from outside. The suspension of almost all foreign aid and restrictions on the Afghan government's use of its foreign exchange reserves have plunged the country into more severe financial stalemate. It is estimated that the government collected $400 million between September and December last year through measures such as forced higher taxes and increased exports of globally scarce coal to cover this cash deficit.
In short, Afghanistan is staring at a rapidly deteriorating economic situation due to lack of international support, security challenges, climate-related issues such as severe drought, and global food shortages. The government of the country, with a population of around four crores and a GDP of 18 billion dollars, was taken over in August 2021 by the Taliban government under the new name of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Donors have withheld all aid, except the portion of humanitarian aid, which until then had been given to the previous administration, meaning a net deficit of 70 percent of total expenses. In addition, the US-controlled foreign exchange assets of the Afghan Central Bank amounting to $9 billion lie frozen. The US administration decided the other day to release a part of this, i.e, 3.5 billion. However, Washington's position is that it will not hand over all this money to the Taliban but only to be spent under the supervision of a third party. Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban's central spokesman, responded in a TV interview that they would agree to a third party supervising it, but how the money should be spent should be entirely within Afghan government's jurisdiction.
Afghanistan today is in a pitiable state where even the basic necessities of life are difficult to meet. All the infrastructure needed for production has to be re-established. The health sector stands particularly debilitated. Although the conflict has ceased, 700 people have died and 1400 have been injured in the clashes between last August and June this year. Half of these casualties are generally attributed to attacks by the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP). According to a survey conducted by Human Rights Watch, 90 percent of the population have not been getting enough food for a year. They point to the possibility of reaching the lowest disaster level of poverty and food shortages. The World Health Organization also points out that countless children approach hospitals with malnutrition-related illnesses. This is compounded by starvation deaths. The health body also points out that there are people in the villages who have not seen bread for months.
Economic reasons are the root cause of Afghanistan's humanitarian disaster. A banking system that has stopped functioning, banks that have no currency to dispense, and a central bank that has been deprived of funds all fall under this cycle. It is in the midst of such an imbroglio that the US is proposing to pay 3.5 billion dollars, out of the 9 billion dollars it seized, to the families of victims of the 9/11 attacks. Unless there is an urgent intervention to avert the humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan through a global effort, and to release of the wealth of the Afghan people in a way that they can safely use it, humanity will have to witness a stage that it will later regret for.