Afghanistan: U.S. Principles vs. Poverty and Starvation

The grimmest predictions came true: Afghanistan is in an incredibly acute crisis.

More than 20 million people are experiencing food shortages and over 8 million are facing starvation.

Poverty is rampant and growing.

But that doesn’t have to be the story of Afghanistan – and there is one major move the U.S. can take here.

In my own piece that I’ve published here back in August 2021, I – just like the rest of the world – asked: What’s next?

Months later, we know what that “next” is. Reports on food shortages, poverty, and its healthcare situation all illustrate how horrific this crisis has been.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, it is a crisis the worst-case scenario of which can still be prevented — but only if the U.S. releases funds that Afghanistan needs so much.

Who’s holding the funds exactly, how could they be released, and what would that mean to the people of Afghanistan?

I have an excellent video for you that answers these questions and explains in detail what Afghanistan needs at the moment.

You will hear what Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, and Dr. Paul Spiegel, director of the Center for Humanitarian Health Services at Johns Hopkins University, have to say.

But before I proceed, a couple of quick remarks for this video to have more context.

One, the funds have been frozen since the Taliban took over; it is part of the U.S.’ efforts to sanction Afghanistan for having political leadership that, to put it mildly, it doesn’t like.

Two, no matter what your view of the Taliban is (my guess – and my hope – is: not favourable!), we have to remember at least three important things about sanctions:

  • they can be considered a form of collective punishment, which is illegal under the International Law,
  • historically, when applied to the whole country (that is, instead of targetting certain individuals), sanctions have the power to devastate economies and take a toll as high as human lives, for example, when access to food items and medicines gets restricted,
  • in short, it is civilians, the ordinary people of a sanctioned country, that pay the price.

We know now that the U.S. has never been too worried about the people affected by its sanctions in the past. The struggles of ordinary people of Cuba, Iran, Iraq, or Venezuela never really meant much for any of the U.S. administrations.

Why? Because (1) the adverse impact of sanctions is something well researched and known to those administrations and (2) because those are always the same administrations that have the power to lift sanctions.

Thankfully, the pressure for the U.S. to release funds to Afghanistan is increasing and we can do our small part by contributing to it.

Please see if there are any petitions by organisations you follow in your own country and please sign a petition that my organisation, CODEPINK, has for this specific action.

There’s also my own episode on what’s happening with the Afghan funds that you can listen to here and below:

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