VANCOUVER, Canada — By mid-2022, 97% of Afghan citizens could be living in poverty, as the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) projected in September, with increased humanitarian aid in Afghanistan needed more than ever. “Afghanistan is facing an avalanche of hunger and destitution the likes of which I have never seen in my twenty-plus years with the World Food Programme,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director in Afghanistan.
The Humanitarian Crisis Post-Taliban
These humanitarian crises come after the Taliban’s governmental takeover in August 2021, which the international community immediately sanctioned for the number of human rights violations they’ve since hoped to enshrine into law. The United States immediately halted its own international aid efforts in Afghanistan through USAID.
Long prior to the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan had relied on international humanitarian aid to maintain the semblance of normalcy it had during the last 20 years of war, with an estimated 75% of Afghan governmental expenditures covered by international aid funding in 2020.
This sudden suspension of international humanitarian aid in Afghanistan has seen the country spiral into several crises, with malnutrition and starvation at the forefront as noted by analysts, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) reports.
The Contemporary Solutions
In the wake of the Taliban’s takeover and its implications, the UNHCR has temporarily expanded operations saying it “will do everything possible to stay and provide” humanitarian aid in Afghanistan in the immediate crisis.
Despite the political demands that saw the sanctions placed on the Taliban government, the U.S. government has provided financial support to the U.N.’s mission of providing humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. The U.S. has been the largest donor to Afghanistan humanitarian assistance programs in 2021, contributing over $425 million, CSIS reports.
Additionally, in January 2022, an additional $308 million in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan was provided by the Biden administration, according to CSIS. However, this is only a stop-gap that will soon no longer be able to withstand as recognized by the WFP.
It appears that Afghanistan needs increased humanitarian aid in Afghanistan to meet the on-the-ground demands of the Afghani people suffering from an increased lower standard of living in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover.
These are three ways the United States and the international community could orient their efforts toward Afghanistan in a way that projects a long-term strategy in both diplomatically dealing with the Taliban and improving the efficacy of international humanitarian aid efforts.
Possible Further Changes
The U.N. Security Council and other analysts have described the sanctions placed on the Taliban government as ineffective and harsh given the country’s historic reliance on aid. The U.N. has mobilized to meet these gaps but is stretched thin.
While placing financial pressure on the Taliban government is seen as necessary to attempt to protect the human rights of its citizenry as well as set an example on the global stage, it should come below humanitarian aid and efforts, treated separately from governmental assistance that Afghanistan previously received.
Throughout 2022, the U.N. has called for increased international aid efforts in Afghanistan, most recently making a plea for $4.4 billion in funding to provide food, shelter, medical care and other essentials, VOA News reports.
The U.S. and other members of the international community could divert previous international aid efforts to Afghanistan once received by the government toward the U.N., who would then use these funds for the immediate humanitarian efforts needed on the ground. Additionally, the $7 billion of government funds seized from the Afghan central bank by the U.S. could be diverted toward this effort.
Ease and Open up Diplomatic Avenues
While the diplomatic and financial ostracization of the Taliban government has arguable justification judging from their form of governance, not allowing any diplomatic avenues for them to engage with the international community and subsequently concede on some grounds only affects the citizenry they preside over, where members of the U.N. Security Council have called on the international community to “cautiously expand their engagement with the de facto Taliban authorities” and “engage with Afghan stakeholders who have credibility, legitimacy and a good reputation,” as stated in the U.N. press release.
While the Taliban government may be an unsavory partner for much of the international community, opening up a small number of diplomatic avenues for them to engage in the world in exchange for certain stipulations regarding meeting international law could both provide immediate relief for the Afghani people and open up both legal and ideological framework for further reforms in a (hopefully near) future Afghan government, much like recent rapprochement Syria.
Assist Refugees through Multilateral Diplomacy
The number of Afghani refugees has increased in its neighboring countries of Pakistan and Iran following the Taliban’s takeover and the ever-expanding crisis the country has faced since its sanctioning. Therefore, the U.S. and the international community could engage multilaterally with these countries to provide the necessary logistical and financial support to meet this influx of refugees and encourage migration out of Afghanistan. This could minimize the humanitarian crisis and more effectively target the Taliban, rather than the Afghan people.
– Majeed Malhas