While a million Afghan children could starve to death this winter, the Americans are withholding funds insisting that girls must first be allowed to go to school, women allowed to work, there should be an ‘inclusive’ government and democracy must be imposed on Afghanistan. Having failed to deliver democracy using cruise missiles for 20 years, the mighty Americans have found another way to do so.
Girls’ education and women’s rights are worthy goals and must be respected. The problem is, the US has frozen nearly 10 billion dollars of Afghanistan’s assets that White House spokesperson Jan Psaki said would not be released. Teachers—both male and female—civil servants and other workers have not been paid for months. This was the case long before the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15 to take over power. Without funds, the Taliban cannot open schools—for boys or girls—because they cannot pay teachers’ salaries.
Afghanistan’s banking system as well as its economy are on the verge of collapse. Were the economy to collapse, it would have catastrophic consequences not only for Afghanistan and its immediate neighbours but the entire world. Refugees would spill over the borders and flood Europe as well.
This was the dire warning delivered virtually by UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths at the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers in Islamabad on December 19. He said 23 million people are battling hunger, malnourished children are teeming in health facilities that are at breaking point, 70 percent of teachers are working without salaries, and millions of students are out of school.
Universal poverty is set to reach 97 percent of Afghanistan’s population of 38 million. It will mark another “grim milestone” in the country’s troubled history, the UN official warned. “Within a year, 30 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP (gross domestic product) could be lost altogether, while male unemployment may double to 29 percent.”
Heart-wrenching pictures of starving Afghan children, their emaciated bodies lying motionless, in some cases two or three children per hospital bed, have emerged in recent weeks. Distraught mothers staring at the withering bodies of their children reflect their helplessness and pain. All this is the direct result of US sanctions and freezing Afghanistan’s assets. Under US pressure, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have also withheld funds from vital projects. The US wants to impose American-style democracy on Afghanistan by starving children and poor Afghan women.
“We can’t starve Afghanistan into democracy and shouldn’t try,” wrote Ryan Cooper, National correspondent of The Week. He went on: “The 20-year American occupation created a warped economic system totally dependent on foreign aid. When the Taliban took over, the Biden administration halted those cash flows, which accounted for about 40 percent of GDP and three-quarters of the government budget, and seized Afghanistan’s currency reserves.”
Responding to concerns that helping the Afghans would benefit the Taliban that the Biden regime does not want to support, Cooper said: “… like it or not, the fates of the Afghan people and the Taliban can’t be disentangled right now. A group of former ambassadors to Afghanistan and US generals recently wrote on a number of proposals to distribute aid without directly aiding the Taliban.
“But realistically, there’s no way to send money to Afghanistan without the Taliban benefiting. If the economy is restored to some level of functioning, and people have enough to eat, the Taliban government will be cemented in power. That’s the choice: starvation [of the people] or letting the Taliban govern.
“Frankly, were it up to me, I’d give the Taliban whatever aid is necessary in the short term, unfreeze Afghanistan’s financial system, remove US sanctions, and be done with it.” The problem with American rulers is that they cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that they waged a 20-year war against a the Taliban and lost. Now they want to starve the entire population to exact revenge.
Amid growing international calls, there has been some movement in recent weeks regarding US exemptions for some funds to be released for humanitarian purposes. A letter signed by 46 Democratic members of the House of Representatives called upon President Joe Biden to release Afghanistan’s frozen assets. They also called for clear assurances that humanitarian organizations helping to avert mass starvation in Afghanistan would not be held liable under the US sanctions regime.
On December 22, the UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolution exempting humanitarian aid to Afghanistan from sanctions imposed on members of the Taliban. The World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund had also announced December 10 it would transfer $280 million by the end of December to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP) and said the entire fund should be assigned to support the Afghan people this winter.
Will these funds arrive in time to avert a humanitarian disaster that all independent observers have warned about? At the OIC summit, it was agreed that a special envoy would be appointed for Afghanistan. Further, the president of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser offered several concrete financing proposals. He said the IDB can manage trusts that could be used to move money into Afghanistan, jumpstart businesses and help salvage the deeply troubled economy. Unfortunately, such funds will not reach Afghanistan before March 2022.
Several countries also called for a quick opening of Afghanistan’s banking system and collectively, with the United Nations and international banking institutions, to provide assistance to Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan urged Washington to drop preconditions for releasing desperately needed funds to restart Afghanistan’s banking systems.
Two days later, more than 600 Afghans held a rally in Kabul carrying placards saying, “Let us eat”, and “Give us our money,” referring to Afghanistan’s funds frozen by the US. One protester called US action, “economic violence.”
How many Afghan children must starve to death before the American warlords release Afghanistan’s funds that do not belong to any group but the country and all Afghan people?