Afghanistan will soon get its own trust fund if the United Nations chief’s plan to alleviate a crushing economic crisis comes to pass.
“The World Bank can create a trust fund, and that trust fund can pay directly to people in need,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Monday. “[U.N. Development Program] has a trust fund that can then pay directly to people in need or organizations in need. So we need to inject cash in the economy.”
That call followed a weekend of meetings between U.S. and Taliban officials in Doha, the new home of the American diplomats who worked in Kabul before the militant group overthrew the internationally recognized Afghan government as U.S. forces withdrew from the country. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other Western officials have argued that humanitarian aid can be provided to Afghanistan in a manner that does not empower the Taliban, while the militants demand wider diplomatic recognition and support.
“Without food, without jobs, without their rights protected, we will see more and more Afghans fleeing their homes in search of a better life,” he said. “The flow of illicit drugs, criminal and terrorist networks will also likely increase. This will not only badly affect Afghanistan itself, but also the region and the rest of the world.”
Blinken’s team described the talks as “candid and professional” in a Sunday evening summary of the dialogue.
“The U.S. delegation focused on security and terrorism concerns and safe passage for U.S. citizens, other foreign nationals, and our Afghan partners, as well as on human rights, including the meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of Afghan society,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “The two sides also discussed the United States’s provision of robust humanitarian assistance directly to the Afghan people.”
Taliban officials touted the U.S. offer of humanitarian aid. “IEA welcomed this assistance and remarked that it will cooperate with charitable groups in delivering humanitarian assistance to those deserving transparently, and will facilitate the principled movement of foreign nationals,” the Taliban’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
That statement leaves open the possibility that the Taliban intend to be more involved in the distribution of humanitarian aid than U.S. or U.N. officials might prefer.
“If we’re taking literally what we’re saying … that’s a signal of potential limited cooperation but not the total package that the U.S. may be looking for, and clearly, there’s still a lot to work out,” Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia program, told the Washington Examiner. “Even if the Taliban says it looks forward to cooperating with charities, we don’t know if that will actually happen. The Taliban is — it’s a brutal actor. The notion of trusting the Taliban is always a risk.”
Guterres declared himself “particularly alarmed to see promises made to Afghan women and girls by the Taliban being broken,” but he also espoused the view that major powers can provide humanitarian aid while withholding assistance and diplomatic recognition from the Taliban.
“We need to find ways to make the economy breathe again. This can be done without violating international laws or compromising principles,” he said. “I urge the world to take action and inject liquidity into the Afghan economy to avoid collapse.”
European powers have expressed alarm since the Taliban takeover became inescapable that their return to power would spark a refugee crisis on the scale of the Syrian Civil War — a conflict that itself remains unresolved.
“This is the make-or-break moment,” Guterres said. “If we do not act and help Afghans weather this storm, and do it soon, not only they, but all the world will … pay a heavy price.”
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Original Author: Joel Gehrke