Without US aid, the country will implode
Today, the Biden administration announced that it will be invoking emergency powers to split $7 billion of the total assets the Afghan central bank kept in New York. It added that while $3.5 billion would be released to a trust fund for ‘immediate’ humanitarian relief in Afghanistan, the remaining assets would remain in American hands.
For Afghans, this is terrible news. There are currently around eight million people at risk of starvation, including a million children, who are in desperate need of financial support. Around 75% of public spending in Afghanistan came from Western aid, and now the country is receiving a fraction of that sum. Today, a stunning 97% of Afghans currently living around the poverty line. On top of this, the country is suffering the worst drought in 30 years, alongside a bitterly cold winter. As WFP Country Director in Afghanistan said: “Afghanistan is facing an avalanche of hunger and destitution the likes of which I have never seen in my twenty plus years with the World Food Programme”.
Thus after two decades of visiting devastation on Afghanistan, the international community is following up by compounding the betrayal and misery on the country. Like many veterans of Afghanistan (and Iraq) dealing with the fallout, I’m no great fan of our military general class who played a significant role in facilitating the disaster. But former UK defence chief General Sir David Richards put it well earlier this week in the BBC Panorama episode “Afghanistan: a country at Breaking Point”:
I haven’t agreed as much with a British general for a long time, but he’s right: we need to recognise that the Taliban are in power now. Most of the media and the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office continue to hammer on about respecting the rights of women and girls. But we cannot expect a country to overhaul all of its values and traditions according to western ideals. Besides, isn’t the ongoing hunger crisis of slightly greater concern?
For the survival of millions of Afghan people, we must deal with the current stalemate over funding that is destroying the country — one whose people have already endured unimaginable suffering for four decades of conflict. It’s time for the West to show magnanimity in defeat by recognising the Taliban and release the money Afghanistan so desperately needs.
James Jeffrey is a freelance writer who splits his time between the US, the UK, and further afield. He previously served in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan with the British Army. Follow him on Twitter: @jrfjeffrey and at his website: www.jamesjeffreyjournalism.com