While the world’s attention is focused on the brutal war in the Ukraine, hunger is spreading through Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, hit by western sanctions. The Afghan economy is deteriorating under a US-led freeze of its assets. This comes after 20 years of failed US and NATO counterinsurgency and nation-building projects.
The United States continues to drag its feet on unfreezing assets of Afghanistan even as half of the crisis-hit country grapples with acute hunger almost 10 months after the Taliban made a stunning comeback and the US-led forces beat a hasty retreat. A coalition of family members of 9/11 victims, Afghan diaspora organizations, and diplomats appointed by the former Afghan government have joined the campaign now, calling for the US government to take urgent steps to release the Afghan money.
Following the chaotic and disastrous withdrawal of the US-led allied forces from Afghanistan after the Taliban laid siege to Kabul in August last year, the administration of US President Joe Biden froze Afghanistan’s $7 billion in banking reserves. The impact of such a decision by Washington has further devastated Afghanistan, already one of the poorest on the earth, where the United Nations estimates that roughly half of the population is currently battling with acute hunger.
Back in February, Biden issued an executive order to set aside half of the frozen $7 billion for some future undetermined use on behalf of the Afghan people, while ordering the other half to be used to settle lawsuits previously leveled by victims of 9/11 against the Taliban. Biden’s confiscation order means that ordinary Afghans, who still suffering from the collapse of the former government, are now facing a liquidity shock that has left many people unable to withdraw cash or perform even basic financial transactions. This is while that a recent report compiled by a group of aid agencies estimates that as many as 120,000 Afghan children may have been married off to suitors for financial reasons by families desperate to survive due to extreme poverty.