War Has Ended, Not the Misery: Afghanistan's Continuing Struggle
As per a UNHCR Report, over 28 million individuals in the current year require humanitarian assistance.
The end of August marks the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, causing the war to end but not the misery. After the embarrassing and chaotic withdrawal, the United States abandoned the war-torn country, causing a massive humanitarian crisis. Numerous challenges surfaced in the humanitarian, economic, political, and counterterrorism domains. The unplanned U.S. withdrawal left a huge security vacuum, which led to increased violence and instability in the country. The Afghan security forces collapsed, reflecting the loopholes in the overall system. The deteriorating security situation led to displacement and a humanitarian crisis, worsened in the last two years. Soon after the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan's economy faced myriad challenges as foreign aid declined.
What is the present state of affairs?
According to recent warnings from the UN food agency, Afghanistan's population is facing a severe food crisis, with nearly 6 million Afghans in dire need of food aid. Who is responsible for this crisis? These are the consequences of decades-long U.S./NATO presence in Afghanistan, which never prioritized the agricultural sector. Afghanistan’s economy depended on Agriculture for years, but it remained one of the most overlooked aspects during the last 20 years. Consequently, as soon as US forces left, the aid was suspended, and an ordinary man faced a severe food crisis.
As per a UNHCR Report, over 28 million individuals in the current year require humanitarian assistance. This represents a significant increase compared to the 18.4 million people in need at the beginning of 2021. This assistance can include various forms of support, including food, shelter, water, cash aid, and help with health or sanitation needs.
As per many experts, the Taliban's management of the Afghan economy has been more effective than anticipated despite some mistakes. However, the Afghan economy appears to be stuck in a persistent state of low-level stability, leaving the majority of Afghans impoverished and reliant on humanitarian aid. Moreover, the economic difficulties in Afghanistan have led to a significant deterioration in living conditions.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has urged to continue humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan alongside investments in long-term solutions. Necephor Mghendi, IFRC’s Head of Delegation for Afghanistan, said: “The humanitarian situation is becoming harsher”. Moreover, Afghanistan is facing its third consecutive year of drought and struggling with economic challenges that have worsened the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
The international community’s financial restrictions, asset freeze, and sanctions have undoubtedly fueled a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Roza Otunbayeva, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, also recognized that the Taliban generates substantial revenue. They have taken measures to reduce corruption and poppy cultivation. This suggests that the group has sufficient financial resources to sustain itself. So, imposing sanctions and isolating policies have not succeeded in weakening the financial strength of the Taliban. Instead, it has only harmed the people of Afghanistan.
What needs to be done by the West and the Taliban now is the question that needs attention.
Interestingly, during the last two years, there has been a marked improvement in internal security in Afghanistan, with a drastic reduction in violent deaths. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, Afghanistan endured the world's bloodiest conflict between 2018 and 2021. Moreover, after 2004, this was the first time the conflict did not escalate to the level of war intensity. The world should keep collaborating with the Taliban to counter and eliminate the menace of terrorism from the region.
More importantly, the Taliban must be more proactive about human rights, particularly women's rights, education, and all-inclusive government. Taliban should review their ban policies against women's basic requirements, including access to parks, gyms, beauty salons, universities, and jobs. The United Nations has labeled these bans a significant barrier to the Taliban's recognition as Afghanistan's legitimate government, reducing Western aid and support. The revisions on bans will relax Western restrictions against the Taliban, paving the way for more cooperation between the international world and the Taliban.
Moreover, there is a lesson for West here. Rather than overlook Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis and strangling the country with sanctions, they should constructively engage with the Taliban. The recent appointment of Maulvi Abdul Kabir as the new caretaker Prime Minister of Afghanistan in May 2023, replacing Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, could signal a willingness on the part of the Taliban to engage in dialogue and openness.
The international community, mainly the West, should realize that their resistance to engagement with the Taliban is harming the Afghan people. In the past, the West, particularly the U.S., ignored many chances to engage with the Taliban, and they should not repeat this mistake now. An ordinary Afghan citizen should not suffer anymore due to global politics and policies.
It’s the time for both war and misery to end for Afghanistan.