Note: This article discusses about 77th UNGA session & situation in Afghanistan specially after withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan & fall of Kabul regime.
As the 77th UNGA meetings continue, various global issues are being discussed by world leaders including Climate Change, the Ukraine conflict, Covid-19, Afghanistan crisis, etc. However many feel (Especially Afghans) that the Afghan crisis intensity and future repercussions should it be allowed to continue are not being given enough attention. The purpose of this report is to highlight some key issues Afghans are facing, how this humanitarian stalemate is affecting regional stability and what should be done to address this issue.
Present day Afghanistan
It has been over a year now since Kabul fell to the Taliban and US forces withdrew from Afghanistan. Such was the speed of Taliban advance all over Afghanistan that its commanders were unprepared for the sudden change and after a lifetime of waging war were now tasked with the administration of a country. Furthermore, the US government had decided to freeze Afghan central bank assets of nearly 9.5 billion, under the justification of not wanting that falling into Taliban hands. Going ever further all foreign aid upon which more than half of Afghanistan was reliant was blocked and indirect sanctions implemented. All of this has contributed to creating one of the worst humanitarian crises Afghanistan has ever seen.
Hospitals are left without supplies, School teachers no longer get paid, poor parents resort to selling their children to feed the remaining ones, and such is the price being paid by regular Afghans. Pakistan has recently intensified efforts to provide relief via food/medical aid and development assistance to Afghan youth however the attempts of one country cannot offset this enormous humanitarian disaster. According to recent UN reports, Afghanistan could face “universal poverty,” with 97% of Afghans living below the World Bank-designated international poverty line of $1.90 a day. Making matters worse 362,000 new people were added to the list of Afghans in need of humanitarian assistance following the June 2022 earthquake that hit Paktika and Khost provinces. To give a further summary of the situation, we have listed some unfortunate points being faced by regular Afghans.
- Economic decline, drought, and high food prices have resulted in 18.9 million people (45% of the population) facing food insecurity (All of this despite food still being available in some places but the inability of people to purchase it)
- Malnutrition victims in Afghanistan now include 1.1 million children under five and 0.8 million pregnant women.
- Two-thirds of the country is in a critical and catastrophic situation for water scarcity (Negatively affecting both drinking water supply and Agriculture)
- Selling Afghan male children to become cheap labor and pushing girls into forced marriages has become more commonplace.
- The Health system in Afghanistan is exhausted and left millions of Afghans with mounting health needs.
- 677,000 people have been driven out of their homes, further escalating the homelessness issue.
Effects on regional peace
A starving homeless population, a government with fractures more factions forming within, and continuous foreign restrictions themselves have largely contributed to the ongoing crisis. Put all of this together and we can see the future only holds instability for Afghanistan which can easily leak out to the surrounding regions. Already incidents of cross-border fighting have occurred at Pakistan, Iran, and Tajikistan borders which was a direct result of more radical factions splitting from the main Taliban government body.
Meanwhile more and more Afghans have been recorded migrating out of Afghanistan into neighboring countries which can cause regional complications, especially in Pakistan which already hosts 3 million Afghan refugees. However, the most danger lies in desperate and angry Afghans picking up arms once again and turning Afghanistan into a hotbed for breeding terrorism as the west had feared decades before. Not only will this degrade regional security but also shut down avenues of economic activity and prosperity surrounding developing states. Inevitably this will also leak further and endanger both the west and east alike.
The Way Forward
Regardless of whatever grievances the world might have against the ruling Taliban government, they need to be cast aside in the interest of both Afghan civilians and regional stability. The sanctions on Afghanistan and the seizure of Afghan assets abroad have no doubt limited the government’s ability to administer and meet the people’s needs. The International community needs to reassess its policy and engage with Taliban leadership to help them mitigate this inhumane torture caused by the crisis.
The Humanitarian needs of the Afghan masses are deepening, putting a strain on the entire complex social and economic system which is shutting down in part due to the asset freeze, the suspension of aid flows, and sanctions. Unfreezing of Afghan assets by the US is necessary to uplift the crippled Afghan economy.
The UNGA is a platform for unbiased discussion and world leaders must use this opportunity to gain a transparent lens of Afghanistan in the interest of helping the Afghan people and rebuild Afghanistan under policies free from political agenda. Furthermore, In the larger interest of global peace and regional stability, it must be ensured that Afghanistan’s territory and vulnerabilities should not be exploited by the western and regional powers to pursue their agendas. After half a century of violence and instability caused largely due to foreign interests, the world now owes the Afghan people assistance to attain normalcy and peace. It’s high time the world acknowledges stability in Afghanistan is directly linked to regional and extra-regional peace, growth, and development and executes a collective response to deal with the crisis.