With war over, economic crisis puts lives of millions of Afghans in jeopardy
By Islamuddin Sajid
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) Peace is slowly returning while an economic crisis is quickly growing in Afghanistan, a landlocked South Asian country that was mired in conflict for decades.
Following the withdrawal of US forces and the Taliban’s takeover of the capital Kabul in August this year, the group announced an end to its 20-year war against foreign troops.
But the sudden collapse of former President Ashraf Ghani’s administration after Taliban fighters entered the capital has left the new Taliban government with many challenges, including a cashless central bank.
Afghanistan is currently facing a huge economic crisis as the Taliban government does not have enough financial resources to smoothly run the war-torn country.
Traders and small businessmen on the streets of Kabul are worried over the ongoing economic crisis and accuse Washington of pushing their country toward economic collapse.
“I’ve been running my carpet business for the past 15 years in Kabul but have never faced such a situation where I couldn’t sell a single carpet in a day,” Abdul Qayoom, a shopkeeper in Kabul, told Anadolu Agency.
Qayoom said Washington’s move in mid-August to freeze his country’s funds caused the crisis.
The US government has blocked over $9 billion of the Afghan central bank’s reserves, and many donors and organizations, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have halted payments since the Taliban swept to power on Aug. 15.
Several countries including China, Russia, Pakistan and Qatar have called on the US to allow Afghanistan to access its foreign reserves, but there have been no positive indications so far.
Families suffer, face food shortage
The current crisis has not only made it difficult for the Taliban government to smoothly run the country but has also put the lives of millions of poor Afghans at risk.
Tooryale Wasil, a taxi driver and the sole earner for his eight-member family, said the crisis has made life very hard.
“My house ran out of wood and gas today and now I wonder how I will buy them because I can barely save 200 Afghanis (around $2) a day,” he said.
“We were happy that the war had ended and that we would enjoy a peaceful life in Kabul, but this crisis has snatched that joy from us,” he added.
Many Afghan taxi drivers and shopkeepers in Kabul who spoke with Anadolu Agency narrated the same stories of hardship.
But they are happy that peace has returned to the city after 20 years and they are now able to work until late at night.
“Earlier, the security situation and street crimes had made our lives very difficult. But now the Taliban have eliminated crime and there is now no fear of being robbed or any street crimes,” said another driver.
UN warns of growing crisis
Last week, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) warned that winter has arrived while people in Afghanistan are facing a food and shelter crisis.
“Nearly 23 million people, or 55% of the population, are facing extreme levels of hunger – nearly nine million of whom are at risk of famine,” said UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch in a statement issued last week while launching a global fundraising winter campaign for displaced families in Afghanistan.
"People don't have enough to eat, and it's very visible,” Baloch said while calling it “a crisis of hunger and starvation."
Last month, Afghan Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in an open letter to the US Congress called for taking “responsible steps towards addressing the humanitarian and economic crisis unfolding” in the country.
"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," the letter said.
He added that US sanctions harm the country’s health, education and other civil services and are causing a huge problem for the public.
“Damage to these building blocks will only harm common Afghans, and this will serve as the worst memory ingrained in Afghans at the hands of America,” he warned.
Amid these challenges, the Taliban say they are struggling to provide food and other essential items to needy people across the country.
But there is hope that things will change.
“Now we have an established government, generating our revenue through taxes, customs etcetera, and we are spending that amount on our people,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban government.
Mujahid also thanked all those countries that are helping Afghanistan and hoped these crises will end soon.