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Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis

Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis. Photo: US National Archives / Public Domain

After twenty years of waging war on Afghanistan, the US has now created the world's worst humanitarian catstrophe with crippling sanctions, writes Jonathan Maunders

On Wednesday, after a lawsuit from The New York Times, The US Pentagon declassified and publicly released video footage showing an American drone strike on Kabul that killed 10 civilians in August. It was graphic confirmation of what had quickly become evident following the event. Despite initially denying responsibility for the civilian deaths, the Pentagon were eventually forced to admit the truth.

That admission of responsibility was not followed by contrition. An internal investigation ruled that the casualties were an ‘honest mistake’ and didn’t recommend any legal or disciplinary action – a conclusion rightly met with outrage across the world. To many it is simply further proof that the US government sees civilian deaths as an acceptable part of its foreign policy agenda.  

August’s withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan was, in part, a response to mounting backlash over 20 years of constant civilian deaths like those in Kabul. However, the military retreat does not mean the US administration has abandoned its disregard for Afghan civilian lives.

Within days of the Taliban seizing control of Afghanistan amid the US troop withdrawal, President Biden declared that his government had seized $9.5 billion in Afghan assets being held in US banks, part of a mindless attempt to intimidate the Taliban. 

The IMF, pressed by the Biden administration, then withheld Afghanistan access to $455 million of its cut of special drawing rights, the fund’s global reserve asset it issues to help member nations maintain their reserves.

The brutal effect of these measures can now be seen. Last week, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths called on the international community to contribute $4.4 billion in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, describing it as “the largest ever appeal for a single country for humanitarian assistance.”

Economists have stated that the country’s economic and humanitarian collapse is a clear result of the attempts to deny Afghanistan its cash reserves, as well as the suspension of $8 billion of yearly aid. Currently there is not enough money to provide the salaries of health workers, teachers and other key workers, while the United Nations Development Program recently reported that roughly only 5% of Afghans have enough to eat. This is a clear humanitarian crisis.

The US government’s efforts to strangle the Afghan economy are not just cruel, but illogical. Using sanctions to plunge three-quarters of the population into acute poverty will not bring the Taliban to the table and will simply fuel much of their propaganda.

Joe Biden may have withdrawn US troops from Afghanistan but his government is still targeting innocent civilians as part of their flawed foreign policy. Opponents of US imperialism must be clear on this and demand an end to Afghan sanctions.

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