The Secretary-General for the United Nations is hosting an emergency fundraising meeting with potential donors today, hoping to raise more than $600 million in foreign aid for the people of Afghanistan. At first glance, there’s little reason to question such a plan because the people of Afghanistan (along with the Americans and allies who remain stranded there behind enemy lines) are in rough shape. Even before the Taliban overthrew the government and upended all of the routine services the previous government managed to provide, the country was already facing a drought, food scarcity, and rampant unemployment. Now things have only gotten worse.
But given the history of widespread corruption and embezzlement in Afghanistan, some donors are bound to be wary of digging into their pockets too deeply. Who will handle the money and how would aid be distributed to the people of that country? And more to the point, how would the UN prevent the Taliban from simply taking all of the money for themselves and leaving the rest of the nation to starve? (Associated Press)
The United Nations is hosting a high-level donors conference on Monday to drum up emergency funds for Afghanistan after last month’s Taliban takeover of the country that stunned the world.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was leading the world body’s call for more than $600 million for the rest of this year in a “flash appeal” for Afghans after their country’s government was toppled by the Taliban and U.S. and NATO forces exited the 20-year war in a chaotic departure.
There are concerns that instability and upended humanitarian efforts, compounded by an ongoing drought, could further endanger lives and plunge Afghanistan toward famine.
To their credit, the UN seems to have foreseen some of the questions I raised above. Guterres has already specified that the U.N.’s World Food Program is to be a major beneficiary of any cash that’s raised this week. If they can handle the procurement of the food and will be allowed into Afghanistan to distribute it themselves, that could theoretically keep the Taliban out of the loop and get the relief to the people who are most in need. But that’s a very big “if” in this equation. Even if the WFP isn’t moving any cash over the border and limiting shipments to food, clothing and other needed supplies, there’s little to prevent the Taliban from simply seizing it as soon as it arrives. At that point, they could restrict the deliveries to their own ethnic Pashtun supporters, leaving other, marginalized groups to starve.
Our chaotic exit from Afghanistan didn’t just remove our ability to control the military situation in the country. It also eliminated our ability to enact any sort of societal reforms and social support services. Even if we manage to get all of the American hostages out of the country and most of our helpers, the Taliban now have roughly 38 million new hostages in the form of their own people. Finding ways to provide aid to those individuals without handing further political and financial victories to their oppressors is going be challenging, assuming it’s even possible.
Speaking of foreign aid, it’s not as if the Taliban is totally without external resources. China and Pakistan are already flooding the Taliban with aid. (Reuters)
China announced last week it would send $31 million worth of food and health supplies to Afghanistan, among the first foreign aid pledges since the Taliban took power last month.
Pakistan last week sent supplies such as cooking oil and medicine to authorities in Kabul, while the country’s foreign minister called on the international community to provide assistance without conditions and to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets.
China is obviously working to ensure they have their feet under the table with the Taliban, as the saying goes. And $31 million isn’t even a rounding error for their budget, so this is is a pretty cheap way to ensure that their efforts to be a dominant influence in Afghanistan in the years to come will bear fruit. As for Pakistan, they were already in bed with al Qaeda and the Taliban before the fall of the Afghanistan government. This sets up a significant challenge for the west.
We probably don’t want to allow China and Pakistan to become the face of charitable aid in the minds of the Afghan people. That would just allow the Taliban to control the message. ‘See? The Americans abandoned you. These are our real friends.’
Of course, the Taliban is already broadcasting that message far and wide. And if we’re being brutally honest, they’ve got a point, given the way we pulled out of there. Sadly, we may have landed in a no-win situation in this aspect of our foreign policy. The Taliban hold almost all the cards at the moment and some of our adversaries appear to hold the rest. If I had a better plan to suggest to the Biden administration I would say so, but I honestly don’t. All of this needed to be planned out and put in place before we started pulling out our troops. That didn’t happen, so now we’re likely going to have to pay the price for that lack of foresight and vision.