US State Secretary Antony Blinken thanked Pakistan in a tweet for hosting the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Council of Foreign Ministers. This is laughable if not a soulless compliment to the many countries’ effort in cleaning up the United States’ mess in Afghanistan.
Foreign Ministers from 57 Islamic countries convened in Islamabad for a one-day summit to resurrect Afghanistan’s prevailing economic and human crisis. Blinken stated, “The OIC extraordinary session on Afghanistan is a prime example of our collective determination and action to help those most in need. We thank Pakistan for hosting this important meeting and inviting the global community to continue cooperating to support the Afghan people.” The United States was also in attendance at the summit as an observer, along with China and Russia. This was the first summit on Afghanistan since the ‘liberation’ of Kabul.
The hypocrisy displayed by Blinken comes at a moment in Afghanistan’s post-occupation history where it faces an economic collapse due to the environment created by the US. This is in part due to its resentment with its defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban.
Unfortunately, the US media and government approach to the current crisis seems to present a shock-value analysis of the crisis. They make it seem as if another country is responsible for the situation in Afghanistan. However, every time it blames someone else, it only ends up pointing the finger back at itself.
The Taliban’s miraculous victory over foreign forces in Afghanistan left everyone (including themselves) astonished. The speed at which cities were liberated from American trained and equipped forces shocked everyone. The personnel the US trained for 20 years deserted their posts in Kabul, and allowed the Taliban to take over without firing a single shot.
Suddenly the Western media started worrying about the safety of Afghan women and children and their bleak prospects under Taliban rule. At the same time, the US froze USD9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan Central Bank and cut them off from operating in the global financial system. This paralysed Afghanistan’s already fragile economy. The US took this step to punish the Afghan people for choosing freedom over mental enslavement.
The U.S further weaponised its economic sanctions by directing the IMF to suspend the deliverance of USD370 million in vital financial resources to Afghanistan. These were supposed to arrive on the August 23rd 2021. But when Kabul fell on the August 15th, this IMF transaction became obsolete.
Additionally, Washington ceased physical shipments of American Dollars to the country, further exacerbating Afghan currency depreciation. As a result, this week, the Afghan Currency depreciated 11 per cent. This has further burdened the ordinary Afghan, especially the women and children for which the US justified war.
The reason behind these blocks is that the Taliban is not “recognised” as a legitimate government by the United Nations. This seems incongruent given that a peaceful takeover is evidence of public approval by the Afghan people.
The bleak prospects for the Afghan nation are perceived to be Taliban created, but the economy they inherited was never made to be self-sustaining by the Americans. For all the apparent “successes” of a utopian society propagated by the Western media about Western presence in Afghanistan, 75 per cent of public spending relied on foreign aid. Afghans lived on less than USD2 a day at the time of the Taliban’s takeover.
In 2020 alone, the World Bank released data findings that international aid flows accounted for 43 per cent of Afghanistan’s economy. Another statistic that further demonstrated American failure in Afghanistan is the country’s balance of trade. When the US was re-enacting scenes from Saigon as it evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan had a trade deficit of 25 to 30 per cent of its GDP with USD7 Billion in imports far exceeding the USD1.7 Billion worth of exports – a four-fold difference.
Afghanistan is on the cusp of a major humanitarian crisis, with a million children on the brink of starvation. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a guide to help classify the severity and magnitude of food insecurity, it is estimates that 47 per cent or 18.8 million people (about the population of New York) are facing elevated acute food insecurity. The projection for the period between November 2021 to March 2022 is even more alarming because food insecurity is expected to increase to 55 per cent of the population.
Other elements that compound the problems for the country are the La-Nina effect inflicting drought and impacting agriculture and livestock, the near-total collapse of the public sector due to suspension of foreign aid, rising inflation causing an increase in food prices due to sanctions, and of course Covid-19.
The incoming winter is bound to push the country to its limits. IPC’s findings show that areas formerly in control of the US and its allies are much more greatly affected than those previously under Taliban rule. But as the country stands under a unified Afghan-led leadership for the first time in 20 years, the domino effect of economic depravity is bound to ripple through the region.
America’s tweet-diplomacy of ‘thanking’ Pakistan is in the backdrop of President Joe Biden not telephoning Prime Minister Imran Khan since being elected to office. He did not even telephone when the US used Pakistan’s transport routes to evacuate its resources out of Afghanistan.
Pakistan has been left to deal with Afghanistan’s problems alone. The world banded together to create chaos and destruction but when it was time to rehabilitate Afghans it was someone else’s problem. This is a repeat of shifting responsibility to Pakistan as the US did in 1991, when Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan.
The way the US approached its defeat will not affect the Taliban in any way. They have learnt to survive through a parallel economy that bypassed all international regulators and provided them the necessary funds for their defending their soil.
Instead of thanking Pakistan for holding a summit, the Americans should educate themselves on their historical blunders in foreign policy as Iran and North Korea, both equally isolated, have managed to survive through insulated micro-economies.
It is a matter of time before Afghanistan adapts, and it will buoy this crisis like every other crisis it has faced. This ‘forever war’ could have been avoided if diplomacy was used as the first line of defence instead of seeking a military solution. America’s wilful ignorance of economic sanctions affecting ordinary Afghans will cost millions of lives. All of this could have been avoided if matters were dealt with saner minds.
An empty gestures of ‘thanks’ helps no one.