According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one million Afghan children are now at risk of acute malnutrition leading to death if there is no immediate action to secure humanitarian relief. The urgency of the matter proving the lethal nature of US sanctions.
As of early this January, the UN estimates that 9 million Afghans are currently at risk of facing a famine, with almost the entire country considered to be undernourished. On the 23rd of January, Pravaran Mahat, a specialist at UNICEF’s South Asia regional office, stated on a visit to Kabul’s Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital that “UNICEF estimates that without urgent action, more than one million children [in Afghanistan] can suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year,” adding that hospital workers are overburdened.
The humanitarian situation, as it is often referred to, is ever deteriorating and ordinary Afghan’s are paying the ultimate price. Since the final withdrawal of US government forces from Kabul, following a months long campaign by the Afghan Taliban to remove the US-backed government, an Islamic Emirate was declared in early September by the Taliban leadership. The catastrophic loss by the US military establishment and their Afghan allies (which quickly scrambled to abandon their posts) proved a nation-building effort, costing in excess of 137 billion dollars, a failure. But with many now turning their eyes away from the chaos in Afghanistan, which Westerners would be led to believe has little to do with them anymore, one of the poorest nations on earth has just got a lot poorer.
The problem with the humanitarian virtue signaling of the West, when it comes to Afghanistan, is two fold: firstly, it diminishes the role of the West in causing the current dire circumstances in the advent of bequeathing the country; and secondly, it seeks to rob the nation’s catastrophe of its stark political character. It should be made clear, the US government is still in Afghanistan, although it doesn’t claim to have boots on the ground. The classic colonialist style presence in a country it occupies is no longer needed when you can target that nation economically.
When the US left Afghanistan, they did so with the blood of thousands on their hands, including from their 11th hour drone strikes targeting civilians as well as hitting them when targeting militants, but more importantly they took the Afghan Central Banks assets with them. How much is the US holding back from the new Taliban government in Kabul you may ask, roughly 10 billion in assets, cutting off the Central Bank and foreign banks from functioning.
Not only this, but even during the US occupation of Afghanistan, between 2001 to 2021, the country still relied on billions in aid from the International Community in order to prevent its complete financial collapse. The US has now cut off the cash flow into Afghanistan from foreign aid donations, essentially strangling the poorest in the country. The issue created is now so serious that the UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres says that, “virtually every man, woman and child in Afghanistan could face acute poverty” if aid is not distributed.
Yet, again it must be noted that the issue here is not only a humanitarian one, this is political. Whilst it should be an absolute priority for aid to reach those in need, the question — as is the case often with other countries such as Yemen and Syria — should not be about how much aid is necessary for the people to stay alive, they must be able to live in dignity and with independence. This is where the Western world and UN consistently fall short, Afghanistan is now ruled by the Taliban, it does not matter how bad their human rights record is, it is on the Afghan people to deal with their country’s internal battles.
Starving an entire nation because you disagree with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is petty, malevolent, and rooted in a clear double-standard. Some pundits have argued that unless the Taliban alter their human rights record they should not receive their country’s finances — that they are entitled to. Some have even argued that the issue the West has is with Islamic fundamentalists or ethnic chauvinists, and a refusal to recognize such a State. Well, these would prove convincing arguments in terms of moral and ideological consistency, if only the West wasn’t actively best friends with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as the State of Israel, both carrying atrocious human rights records and base their policies largely on either ethnic or religious fundamentalism.
If the Taliban should not be legitimized, nor should Saudi Arabia. If the Afghan people should be starved over their current leadership’s actions, then so too should the Israelis — that is, if the West is going to attempt to maintain moral consistency. Not to suggest these actions are morally conscionable. Of course, this approach is obviously hardline and oppressive in nature, but this is what it would take to eliminate the double-standard.
Evidently, the Western regimes such as its superpower [the United States] have no problem with human rights abusers, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, religious fundamentalist governments, because their closest allies in the Middle East are rooted in such trends. So in reality, the reason for Afghanistan’s isolation is to do with the West’s political opposition to the Taliban, not pertaining to human rights. It’s about power and pressuring the Taliban to bow before them. The US government has not left Afghanistan; it will not allow the Taliban to act independently and will not give away the key trade access that Afghanistan can supply, as well as its numerous reserves of rare-earth minerals, oil, and gas.
Afghanistan is an asset to the West and it will not permit China to sink its teeth into the goldmine which is Afghanistan. So if this means killing millions, as Madeline Albright once said on the starving to death of 500,000 Iraqi children due to US sanctions “the price is worth it”. This is a political crisis and needs a political solution as well as a humanitarian one. Without the acceptance of this fact, Afghanistan’s people can only expect hell on earth ahead of them — which is in fact exactly what US sanctions are designed to create.