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Friday, April 12, 2024

How international engagement with Taliban can prevent humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan?

Soon after the withdrawal of US and allied forces from Afghanistan, the international assistance to Afghanistan’s new government also ended. This left the new Afghan rulers and masses at the brink of the humanitarian crisis in the country. People are facing a shortage of food supplies, shelters, medicines and other essentials.

Since the Taliban took over the control of Afghanistan, the country has been battered by deepening economic, humanitarian and security crises. With the withdrawal of foreign occupation forces, the international donors suspended foreign aid and the Afghan government assets were frozen. It has plunged a country already suffering from high poverty levels into a full-blown economic crisis. Prolonged drought, cold weather and Covid-19 in Afghanistan continue to ravage the food supply and international economic sanctions on the new regime have not only crippled the banking system but also the functioning of the country.

The international community needs to engage with the Afghan government irrespective of who is ruling. The engagement with the Taliban is essential for peace and stability not only for Afghanistan but also for the region. The US government and the international community have no option but to engage with the Taliban to supplement their effort to build peace and stability in Afghanistan. The fighting is over in Afghanistan and it is time the international community should realize and take practical steps to rebuild the devastated country through infrastructure, banking system, health care, improved education, economic growth and employment.

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After fighting the Taliban for two decades, the US signed the Doha Peace agreement with the Taliban on 29 February 2020 to end the longest war in US history. Both sides made promises to each other. The US committed to withdrawing all its military forces, its allies, and coalition partners from Afghanistan and remain committed to the rebuilding and rehabilitation in Afghanistan. The Taliban promised not to let the Afghan soil be used against the US or any other country and start an intra-Afghan dialogue to achieve a peaceful solution to the Afghan turmoil. Both sides have adhered to the pledges they made as the US has withdrawn and the Taliban have formed an inclusive government in Afghanistan.

The US should, however, act on its promises of rehabilitation of Afghanistan.

Former Afghan President Karzai has stated that he invited the Taliban to come and provide security to people after the US-backed regime had fled the country and fear of loot and plunder was high. Taliban maintained peace and fulfilled all its commitments of the Doha agreement. US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad has also appreciated the peaceful takeover of Kabul and said that the Taliban have adhered to the Doha agreement by not using force or taking Kabul by force.

Afghanistan’s economy is aid-dependent and relied on grant funding for more than 75 percent of public spending. Approximately half of the 40 million Afghans are in need of humanitarian assistance. As many as 8.7 million people would need long-term and consistent assistance. The Afghan health system has also suffered. The state-run system heavily relied on foreign funds and is now unable to pay salaries to the doctors, teachers and staff or even to buy medicines. The poverty rate in Afghanistan was already high, the United Nations has warned that about 97 percent of Afghanistan’s population may sink below the poverty line if the country’s political and economic crises are not addressed.

The harsh winters, 2019 drought, and Covid-19 also added to the gravity of the situation. However, the US sanctions resulting in barricading banking system, liquidity and transfer of money has stabbed Afghans in the back thus stopping them from buying desperately essential food items and medicines from abroad.

Soon after the withdrawal of US and allied forces from Afghanistan, the international assistance to Afghanistan’s new government also ended. This left the new Afghan rulers and masses at the brink of the humanitarian crisis in the country. People are facing a shortage of food supplies, shelters, medicines and other essentials.

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This has raised security concerns in the region if the humanitarian crisis worsens in Afghanistan

Being an immediate neighbor, Pakistan has made continuous serious efforts to sensitize the international community of the humanitarian crisis and security concerns in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and National Security Advisor have raised this issue in their diplomatic engagements with other dignitaries. It has hosted the Troika Summit in Islamabad where Russian, US and Chinese special representatives for Afghanistan participated. Pakistan has also successfully hosted the 17th Extraordinary Meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of OIC Countries.

The objectives of the meeting were to explore “means and mechanisms” for aid delivery in coordination with UN agencies, international financial institutions, and the international community for mitigating the humanitarian crisis.

Besides its efforts on the diplomatic front, Pakistan has provided assistance to Afghans through its own resources as well as in collaboration with NGOs and INGOs by air and land routes and has also provided education and medical assistance including the establishment of two free eye camps in Afghanistan.

International and regional states must take urgent steps to address the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and stave off economic collapse. To abandon the Afghan people would be a historic mistake that would have tragic consequences. Afghan frozen assets and international sanctions have left the Afghan people feeling abandoned, forgotten and punished for something that is not their fault. The well-being of Afghans can only be realized through political stability. If the international community ignores Afghans, they will remain in isolation. Such isolation will have the worst consequences, which will not be in anyone’s interest. The international community should engage and help the Afghan Taliban.

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It is a time that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions should help distressed Afghan people by providing them urgently required humanitarian aid, medicines, food supplies, basic infrastructure, banking system and employment. Provision of economic and security support will decrease the chances of a situation getting worst. Regional and international states must realize that engagement with the Taliban interim government will bring stability to Afghanistan.


The writer is Islamabad based analyst and can be reached at sarahamidkhan21dec@gmail.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.