KABUL, March 17 (IPS) – While all eyes are on Ukraine, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has been forgotten. But only with international aid can Afghans build the future.
When US President Joe Biden delivered his Speech on the Union on March 2, the world could understand how much attention people had on Ukraine. In describing the foreign and domestic successes of his administration, Biden emphasized America’s unwavering support for the people of Ukraine, even as nearly half a million Ukrainian refugees fled the border crossings. painting in their backyard.
But there was another crisis that was conspicuously absent from his speech: the end of America’s two-decade-long war in Afghanistan, and the consequent humanitarian catastrophe. While his silence on Afghanistan is not surprising – the US withdrawal in August 2021 was an optical disaster – Biden’s omission sent a clear message. The United States and much of the international community have forgotten about Afghanistan.
While images of Afghans falling from plane landings and mothers handing their babies over wires at Kabul airport captivated the world for a fleeting moment, once the Taliban overran Kabul. , the story has turned quiet for many international observers.
The economy is broken due to the mistakes of the Americans
The tumultuous events of August 2021 sent Afghanistan’s already thriving economy into free fall. Inflation spiked as residents in major cities across the country scrambled to withdraw cash from their savings.
ATMs quickly run out and remittance services shut down altogether or enforce strict withdrawal limits leaving the lucky few to spend days or even weeks waiting to withdraw their savings one by one. their small savings. While unemployment has skyrocketed, the cost of living has also skyrocketed, forcing large, multi-generational families to fall apart.
Biden announced that half of the $7 billion freeze would not go to the people of Afghanistan, but to settle billions of dollars in lawsuits against the Taliban by the families of 9/11 victims.
When the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15, 2021, the US Federal Reserve froze $7 billion worth of assets belonging to Afghanistan’s central bank, the Da Afghan Bank (DAB). While this was intended to prevent the Taliban from directly accessing the funds, as a result thousands of Afghan families and business owners had to part with their savings.
In the months that followed, prices continued to rise, and families continued to struggle for the money to come out. Then, on February 11, 2022, Biden announced that half of the $7 billion freeze would not go to the people of Afghanistan, but to settle billions of dollars in family lawsuits against the Taliban. 9/11 victims’ families.
The announcement caused an uproar, even among some of the families set to benefit from the announcement. Even now, the US government has not clearly defined how the money will be used despite the huge demand in reality.
Meanwhile, the international community is stuck in limbo, trying to find a way to get money and aid into the hands of struggling Afghans without funding the Afghan government directly. Organizations like the ICRC have begun to pay doctors and medical staff directly, so that hospitals and clinics can continue to operate.
Although it is slow, some progress has been made on this front. On February 25, 2022, the US issued the latest in a series of ‘General Authorizations’, which are intended to ‘ensure that US sanctions do not impede or impede necessary transactions and activities. to provide aid and support the basic human needs of the Afghan people’.
While this greatly expands the range of American businesses and institutions that interact with and contribute to the Afghan economy, it does not untangle Afghanistan’s dysfunctional domestic banking sector.
Less severe than expected
Despite the economic upheaval, in March 2022, life in the capital remained normal. The city’s oldest market was still buzzing with customers, and groups of young women chatted as they crossed the street near Kabul university, dodging taxis and motorbikes.
The kids still make their way through the rush hour traffic, selling pens and gum to bored drivers. Disappointed-looking traffic policemen waved their cars through packed intersections, and ice cream vendors patrolled along the sidewalk. It was not the image many people expected.
Many of the strictest restrictions one would expect the Taliban to impose have yet to materialize. Many restaurants still play music. Women walk the streets of Kabul without burkhas or male guardians, and many men are still clean-shaven – albeit with chubby chins certainly than before.
Women taking (sexist) classes at colleges and all-girls high schools are scheduled to reopen when the school year begins in the spring (although this will have to be see Will these developments continue More severe restrictions are just a matter of some certain that tighter restrictions are coming, others are cautiously optimistic.
If the Taliban are unable to provide jobs and income to their fighters, they risk losing them to other conflict parties with larger pockets.
Despite some small concessions, the outlook for women is by no means positive. Women’s rights activists have been jailed without explanation. Some have disappeared. Although some women have returned to public life in larger cities such as Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif, others have remained at home, fearing that the Taliban’s plot could quickly change.
Security across the country has certainly improved. Vast stretches of road impassable due to fighting and IEDs seven months ago were clear. But there are signs that the respite from conflict may be short-lived.
If the Taliban are unable to provide jobs and income to their fighters, they risk losing them to other conflict parties with larger pockets. This includes ISIS’s Afghan branch, known as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), which has claimed numerous attacks in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar over the past seven months, including including direct attacks against the Taliban.
An obvious disaster
In the first week of March, the Taliban security forces began an unprecedented house-to-house search operation across Kabul and several other provincial capitals, moving systematically from one vicinity to another. neighborhood as panic messages spread on social media.
Many searches are polite and crude, others violent. Although searches aimed at seizing private weapons could be used by criminals, the operations demonstrated the government’s willingness to deny privacy and personal property if they would like.
The freedom of the press has undeniably shrunk again. Several Afghan journalists, both men and women, were detained, others tortured. Although most national television stations are still operating, public criticism of the current government has largely disappeared from the local media.
In January, the United Nations warned that 23 million people were facing extreme food insecurity – more than half the population.
About 75% of Afghanistan’s population lives in rural districts, rather than in cities. In these areas, many of which have seen continuous skirmishes over the past two decades, peace is a welcome change. But rural Afghanistan is in dire need of food, cash and other basic forms of aid.
And although the fighting has stopped, hunger can be just as deadly as bullets and IEDs. A UNDP study conducted in December 2021 found that 97 percent of Afghans are likely to live in poverty by the end of 2022. In January, the United Nations warned that 23 million people were facing poverty. face severe food insecurity – more than half of the population.
Without another bloody military intervention, the Taliban will remain in control of Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. It is clear that the situation is far from ideal, especially for women, and who want to chart a more inclusive and liberal path for their country.
The Taliban’s treatment of women and minorities is, in many cases, appalling. But that situation was not the black-and-burn spectacle that some of the rest of the world believed. Acknowledging reality may feel morally superior to some, but those who demand an all-or-nothing approach to dealing with the Taliban are rarely the ones who will pay. real price.
Many Afghans have been moving forward, but they cannot continue if the rest of the world turns their backs.
Kern Hendricks is an independent photojournalist on issues of social upheaval and the effects of longstanding conflict. He has lived in Kabul, Afghanistan since 2017.
Source: International Politics and Society, based in the Brussels office of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
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