by Zia Sarhadi (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 3, Ramadan, 1443)
With the world’s attention focused on Ukraine— deliberately one might add—the plight of Afghans has fallen off the radar screen. Not high on the list of priorities even if nearly 40 million Afghans face starvation, the conflict in Ukraine has proved a useful diversion.
The plight of people in the two locales once again highlights western hypocrisy. Afghanistan has been and continues to be the victim of western sanctions and aggression. Its people are deliberately starved by withholding more than $9 billion of their foreign reserves in US banks. After suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Taliban, the Washington warlords are seeking revenge by starving the hapless Afghan people, many of them children.
In Ukraine, on the other hand, there is constant breast beating for its people’s suffering because Russia is the “aggressor”. Are Ukrainian lives more precious than those of the Afghans even if the latter are dirt poor? This is crude racism that must be condemned unequivocally.
The United Nations estimates that 97 percent of Afghans could be living below the poverty line by the middle of this year (see also here). Many of them will die. Some are already dying but there is no media coverage of their plight. Afghan women and children must remain invisible. This is a privilege reserved only for white Ukrainians.
American warlords have used ludicrous arguments to withhold Afghan funds. They demand an “inclusive” government in Afghanistan and insist that the Taliban must open schools for girls.
While the call for an “inclusive” government is admirable, where on earth does one find such a government? No such government exists even in the US, so on what basis is this demand made of the Taliban? The Americans are using this merely as a pretext to refuse to hand over money to the Taliban-led Afghan government because they want to see them fail.
Similarly, the call to open schools for Afghan girls is nothing short of rank hypocrisy. The Taliban do not have the money to pay teachers, male or female. This is also the case with many hospitals and medical clinics shutting down because of lack of funds. The regime in Washington is directly responsible for this state of affairs.
For 20 years, the American military used every lethal weapon in its arsenal to pulverize Afghanistan. This is the only thing the Americans are good at: destruction. Even before America’s invasion of October 2001, most Afghans were living virtually in the Stone Age. American bombs, missiles and air strikes flattened whatever little infrastructure was standing.
America’s occupation of Afghanistan created a culture of dependence. Before the Americans fled Afghanistan, it was reduced to total dependence on US largesse. With their departure and that of their Afghan puppets, the money pipeline also dried up. The freezing of Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves has only exacerbated the problem.
Last November, the Islamabad-based daily, The News International reported: “A businessman from Jalalabad disclosed that unemployment has tripled, saying that one of the major Pul Charkhi industrial parks of Kabul, which had three thousand factories with one million workers along with engineers, office staff, can now only retain 30,000 workers. The numbers keep dropping every day…”
On April 13, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) held a panel discussion with experts from the World Bank as well as Naheed Sarabi, the former deputy Minister of Finance of Afghanistan. Their conclusions make grim reading.
The USIP report said: “Afghanistan’s economy and people have suffered an overwhelming shock since the Taliban takeover last August. The ongoing crisis has been driven by the cutoff of development aid, existing international sanctions and the freezing of Afghan foreign exchange reserves. This has sparked the incipient collapse of the private sector, banking system and the urban economy in particular — precipitating enormous humanitarian needs. The dire situation highlights the critical need for immediate action by the United States and international community to help forestall a complete economic collapse and mitigate the impact on millions of Afghans.”
This is the prognosis of an American think-tank, not that of the Taliban or their supporters. The Taliban have on numerous occasions appealed to the US and the broader international community to release their funds. Regrettably, such appeals have fallen on deaf ears.
The Americans appear in no mood to forgive the Taliban at whose hands they received such a beating. While many innocent Afghan children, among them mostly girls, will die of starvation, this will add one more chapter to America’s dark history of cruelty and criminal conduct.