Time for the U.S. to really leave Afghanistan alone

November 22, 2021 - 17:51

TEHRAN - The ruling Taliban government in Afghanistan has called on the United States to actively address the humanitarian crisis that many observers blame on Washington for creating in the war-ravaged country. A statement by the Taliban’s Foreign Ministry, noted the country’s increasing humanitarian and financial crises are a result of Washington freezing Kabul’s assets.

In a statement, it noted that “currently, the fundamental challenge of our people is financial security and the roots of this concern lead back to the freezing of assets of our people by the American government.”

The United States Special Representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West responded by saying “U.S. officials made clear to the Taliban for years that if they pursued a military takeover rather than a negotiated settlement with fellow Afghans then critical non-humanitarian aid provided by the international community – in an economy enormously dependent on aid, including for basic services – would all but cease.”

He also added, “Afghanistan was unfortunately already suffering a terrible humanitarian crisis before mid-August, made worse by war, years of drought, and the pandemic.” 

The Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, pointed out that the comments that Afghanistan faced a humanitarian crisis prior to August [when the Taliban took power] are true. He says "It is correct that economic problems have been inherited by the new government. Thus, everyone should fulfill their own responsibilities to address the issue."

Calls have been made urging the easing of financial sanctions on Afghanistan. Regional countries as well as Human Rights Organizations have urged the White House to the release frozen Afghan assets saying the plight of ordinary people and rising poverty should not be linked to politics.

The reality is Afghanistan’s economic problems grew significantly following the U.S. invasion and subsequent 20-year occupation. The U.S. administration however refuses to budge from its, straightforward diplomatic approach to the Taliban saying "legitimacy & support must be earned by actions to address terrorism, establish an inclusive government, & respect the rights of minorities, women & girls – including equal access to education & employment.” 

The reality is Afghanistan’s economic problems grew significantly following the U.S. invasion and subsequent 20-year occupation where violence, poverty and unemployment levels all increased as a result of America’s military presence. 

When Washington talks about the Taliban addressing terrorism to “earn support,” Washington might need a reminder that terrorism grew in Afghanistan because of America’s 20-year occupation. The Daesh terror group did not exist in the country before the U.S. invasion. Now it is bombing Mosques on a regular basis, other terrorists who had no presence before the U.S. invasion have wreaked havoc during and after the 20-year American occupation.

Unemployment, children out of school and poverty levels have never been higher because of the violence the country witnessed during the U.S. occupation. And as with any occupying power; under international law it should have provided security for Afghans. But it failed to do so, the U.S. military left the country in a terrible state of affairs. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, prices are skyrocketing and the people’s needs continue to outpace the resources that are being flown in. The FAO says “the situation is disastrous. Every farmer we’ve spoken to has lost almost all of their crops this year, many were forced to sell their livestock, they have accumulated enormous debts and simply have no money. No farmer wants to leave their land. But when you have no food, you have no grain from the previous harvest, there are no seeds in the fields and your livestock are gone, you have no choice.” The UN agency says that 18.8 million Afghans are unable to feed themselves every day, and that this number is set to rise to nearly 23 million by the end of the year. 

The Taliban say "as the cold winter months are fast approaching in Afghanistan, and in a state where our country has been hammered by the coronavirus, drought, war, and poverty, American sanctions have not only played havoc with trade and business but also with humanitarian assistance.” 

More than $9 billion of the Afghan nation’s foreign assets are frozen, sitting in the U.S. following the Taliban takeover in August. Is America punishing Afghan people for its disastrous withdrawal from the country? 

In essence, this is a shame on the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden as international bodies are calling for large donations to avert a humanitarian catastrophe the White House is instead reverting to its now-common tactic of sanctions. 

As with many nations under U.S. sanctions; the punitive measures are just a form of common warfare with aim of hurting ordinary people and the goal of pressuring the government. In other words, it can be argued that America is still at war with Afghanistan so long as its sanction are imposed on the country. 

International agencies say 667,903 Afghans have been internally displaced in 2021 because of violence while hundreds of thousands of Afghan asylum-seekers continue to make their way to neighboring Iran; again because of violence and terrorists that many accuse Washington of using as proxies to continue destabilizing the country.

According to UNICEF, the dire humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan are deeply affecting children in the country. This month, the United Nations Development Program in Afghanistan, stated that the country is “facing the worst humanitarian disaster” ever witnessed, adding that 97% of the 38 million population are at risk of sinking into poverty. Also, this month, the World Food Program reported that almost 24 million people in Afghanistan, or 60% of the population, suffer from acute hunger. An estimated 3.2 million children under age 5 are also expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year. Many vulnerable families across many Afghan provinces are relying on assistance from the World Food Program.

The U.S. led the way in damaging Afghanistan and has a duty to prevent Afghans from starving; while according to experts, poverty in the country will strengthen the role of terrorists. And there has been an increase in deadly terrorist attacks so Washington has a duty to try and protect Afghans by not interfering in the country’s affairs any longer. The first way it can do that is by releasing all the Afghan people’s frozen assets. The second priority now should be for the U.S. and its allies to pay the UN the money they had promised that would go to UN-led humanitarian agencies and missions. 

Having done so much damage, a third step would be to compensate the Afghan people for the damage, horror and violence they witnessed and Washington inflicted on them for twenty years. As the U.S. led the war and occupation, a fourth positive step would be for the U.S., this time, not to lead the effort on how to approach Afghanistan in the future. Maybe that should be conducted by Afghan’s neighbors and regional countries as has been the case with several conferences on Afghanistan already. It’s clear Washington had no idea what it was doing for 20 years, it would be wise for the U.S. to take the backseat now and allow others to handle the tragic mess it left behind. 

Two of the most important challenges facing Kabul today is poverty and security, something Washington could not successfully achieve in two decades; and that’s when it had a major presence and role in the country.