Thursday, February 16, 2023

Taliban Exclusion of Women from NGOs and Universities Costing Afghanistan $7 Billion (and Counting)

Workers in Kabul measuring out food for Afghans to receive from the World Food Program. Mass starvation has gripped much of the country since the Taliban took control.

Click on the picture for a background report.

We have been following the situation in Afghanistan involving the Taliban's order barring women from university and charitable organizations.  We reported, for example, that the State Department imposed increased sanctions on the Taliban after the Taliban summarily banished women from going to university or working with NGOs.  When the Afghan government collapsed shortly the U.S. withdrew troops, the Biden administration froze the government's bank accounts.  Afghanistan is losing about $140,000 every single day just in interest on the frozen capital, assuming an approximate 5% rate.  This in a country with GDP per capita of less than $400.

Unfathomable restrictions' on women's rights risk destabilizing  Afghanistan; Security Council voices deep alarm | UN News

An interesting WSJ Podcast quantifies the financial costs and how those costs are impacting the Afghan people.  Here is a partial transcript:  

Annmarie Fertoli: When the US left Afghanistan in 2021 and the Taliban took over, the Biden administration made a bold move. It froze $7 billion that the Afghan Central Bank had kept in reserves in the US. The White House put much of that money in an account in Switzerland. The so-called Afghan Fund was pitched as a way of helping the Afghan people, but so far no funds have been released. Instead, the money has frozen as the US bumps up against the limits of its power to sway the Taliban. I'm Annmarie Fertoli from the Wall Street Journal, and joining me now is our DC reporter, Daniella Cheslow. Hi Daniella, thanks for being here.

Daniella Cheslow: Yeah, the picture of Afghanistan's economy is pretty bleak. The World Bank estimates the economy contracted by about 30% between 2021 and 2022. The UN says malnutrition reached a record high. This is partly because of economic factors, and that includes the international community cutting off a lot of aid since the Taliban took over. There's also been a drought and flooding that impacted crops. The Afghan Fund wouldn't directly help out in humanitarian aid. That's not its role, but it could help keep inflation stable. Over the summer, Afghanistan's year on year inflation reached above 18%, which is really making it harder for people to afford food and other basic goods. It's come down somewhat since then, but it's still high. There was some fear for a while in Afghanistan that the country's economy would completely collapse. What has been keeping it somewhat stable is a pipeline of cash that the United Nations flies in. The World Bank has said that if that were to dry up, it would seriously set back what it called Afghanistan's anemic recovery.

Annmarie Fertoli: The Afghan Fund is just one part of the picture here. I wonder what you heard from other groups that are trying to help the people of Afghanistan without propping up the Taliban?

Daniella Cheslow: Yeah, that question is on people's minds in DC. The US has found ways to aid people in countries it's sanctioned like North Korea. But I think that Taliban poses a unique problem. It has banned women from working in NGOs that came out in December. Many organizations that worked in Afghanistan suspended or cut back their operations because they said they couldn't reach their targets. The result is a moral dilemma, which is what I heard from Ibraheem Bahiss at the International Crisis Group, which still has a presence in Afghanistan.

Ibraheem Bahiss: Do we want Afghans to suffer at the cost of hoping that it would change the Taliban's behavior or at least keep the Taliban tied down? Or do we want to address the crisis that the Afghan population is grappling with, even if the Taliban will benefit from the improved humanitarian situation and economic situation in the country?

Unfreeze Afghanistan on Twitter: "We welcome @US4AfghanPeace's announcement  of movement on $3.5B of Afghanistan's Central Bank (DAB) reserves through  the establishment of The Afghan Fund, and reiterate the ultimate goal of  returning

Unfreeze Afghanistan is a "coalition of US and Afghan women" that want Taliban to respect the human rights of women and the United States to unfreeze the money.  

darryll jones

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