November 16, 2021 11:12 AM
The first snow will fall on Kabul overnight, and the death rate will start to rise. Most of the children will die, but the cold will not kill them. That, at best, will simply complete the work begun months or years ago by malnutrition. At the root of the impending tragedy is another type of freeze.
Most famines are the direct, and sometimes deliberate, result of a war, such as the current blockade of Tigray by the regimes of Ethiopia and Eritrea or the blockade of Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its regional allies and westerners. In Afghanistan, however, it was the end of a war that caused hunger.
During the last two years of the US occupation the country has been hit by drought, so the poorest were already vulnerable before the events of last summer (it is always the poor who go hungry when food is scarce and prices soar). But what worsened this situation was the chaos caused by the withdrawal of American soldiers in August.
As chaotic images flowed across American screens and a sense of humiliation grew, the Biden administration has made a crucial point clear. “Any assets that the Afghan government has in US banks will not be made available to the Taliban,” an official said on Aug.15. At that point, famine became inevitable.
There is enough money in those frozen accounts to import food and allow 40 million Afghans to survive the winter
The fact that the US government and US-dominated institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, stopped sending aid to Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power is understandable. The end of aid was a big problem for the new regime – because foreign funding covered three-quarters of public spending – but it certainly came as no surprise.
Unlike the freezing of all Afghan money deposited in American and Western banks ($ 9.5 billion in the United States alone). Above all, it is a question of aid that the previous regime had not yet spent, or that had made it disappear. However, it is Afghan money and belongs to the new government of the country, which is the Taliban.
This is the freeze that will have the most dire consequences. The internal Afghan economy has basically collapsed, but there is enough money in those frozen accounts to import food and allow the 40 million Afghans to survive the winter without too many starvation victims. So why doesn’t the Washington government release this money?
Cynics suggest that the United States never forgives countries and governments that have dared to challenge (and beat) them. The perfect example is Cuba, where the trade embargo has lasted for sixty years. But cynicism is malicious. We should accept the justification of the countries holding Afghan money as it is offered to us.
Biden avoids talking about the matter, but State Department spokesman Ned Price last month said the funds are part of the “carrot and stick” strategy the United States uses to influence Taliban behavior.
Another administration official stressed that “releasing the cash reserves does not guarantee that the Taliban will use them to solve Afghanistan’s problems.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson explained that “we cannot write a blank check to the Taliban authorities. We must ensure that the country does not go back to being a narco-state and a paradise for terrorists ”.
Who do these people think they are? The money belongs to Afghanistan, and some Afghans are already starving. What right do these people have to withhold money until the country proves it is not “a haven for terrorists”? How can the Taliban prove that they will not become one? How long will it take? Up to the first million starving? Up to the second?
There are probably people in the State Department (and certainly within US intelligence) quite convinced that the Taliban have never been involved in any attack on US soil.
Washington has argued for twenty years that the Taliban knew about Osama bin Laden’s plans for the 9/11 attacks, but no evidence has ever been brought to support this thesis, which by the way doesn’t make much sense. In fact, Bin Laden did not prepare the attack on Afghan soil, and informing the Taliban in advance would have jeopardized the success of the plan.
This narrative has served US purposes in the past and continues to do so today, only the current goal is simply to punish the Taliban for winning the war. It is despicable behavior, but the great powers often act like vengeful children, especially when they don’t pay the consequences.
“The money belongs to the Afghan nation. Give us our money, ”Finance Ministry spokesman Ahmad Wali Haqmal said last week. “Freezing these funds is unethical and goes against all international laws and values”. But the money will remain stuck. And winter will soon fall over Afghanistan.
(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)