United States Expands Aid to Afghanistan in Hope of Alleviating Humanitarian Crisis


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Evacuee from Afghanistan, Worahmina, holds her 15-day-old son Mustafa while waiting for a flight to the United States in a hangar at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Wednesday, September 1, 2021. (JP Lawrence / Stars and Stripes)

The Treasury Department on Wednesday issued new licenses to ease sanctions restrictions on assistance to Afghanistan, following a wave of calls from aid organizations, lawmakers and others to prevent economic collapse and massive famine.

The licenses expand the definition of authorized humanitarian aid to education, including the payment of salaries to teachers, and allow broader use of US funds received by aid organizations working inside the country.

The United Nations and international financial institutions have warned that bans on economic transactions with the Taliban and the freezing of Afghanistan’s $ 10 billion in foreign reserves – most held in the United States – have brought the country to the brink of the catastrophe.

The Biden administration, joined by much of the world, said the militant government that took control of the country in August can only be recognized if it guarantees the human and civil rights of all Afghans, including Afghans. minorities and women, and sever ties with terrorist organizations. like al-Qaida.

But the abrupt halt in funding for foreign aid, which provided 40% of all government revenue and over 75% of all government spending, crippled most banking and business activities and left many people jobless or unemployed. pay amid a prolonged drought, the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and the onset of the harsh winter in Afghanistan.

Last week, dozens of U.S. lawmakers and former senior U.S. military and diplomatic officials who served in Afghanistan joined the United Nations and humanitarian organizations in calling for changes in administrative policy.

On Monday in Islamabad, Martin Griffiths, the UN Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, told a special session of foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that the Afghan economy was in “free fall. And warned that “if we do not act with determination and compassion” it will bring “the whole population with him”.

While the humanitarian response in terms of food, shelter and medical supplies sent to Afghanistan was crucial, Griffith said, it was not enough. He called for flexible donor funding that could be used to pay the wages of public sector workers and support basic services, including health, education, electricity and livelihoods.

Addressing the meeting, called specially to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called the crisis “made by man” and said that it “is being created though. let him know that it can be avoided if [Afghanistan’s U.S.-based] accounts are released and cash is pumped into their banking system.

The OIC has set up a special fund for Afghanistan and urged member states to contribute.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Tuesday that the administration “was intensely looking for ways to inject more liquidity into the Afghan economy, put more money in people’s pockets, and do it with international institutions, along with other countries and partners, trying to put in place the right mechanisms to do so in a way that does not directly benefit the Taliban but directly benefits the people.

Treasury actions announced Wednesday expand earlier measures allowing non-commercial remittances to individuals in Afghanistan, and assurances to the international commercial banking community that many transactions with Afghanistan could continue without violating U.S. sanctions.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council also unanimously approved a United States-sponsored resolution, in effect for a year, that largely mimicked the actions of the Treasury. The Taliban are sanctioned as an organization, as are around 130 members of their leadership.

According to a Treasury Department fact sheet, the sanctions “do not prohibit the export or re-export of goods or services to Afghanistan, the movement or sending of money to and from the country. Afghanistan, or activities in Afghanistan, provided that such transactions or activities do not involve individuals, entities or property in which sanctioned individuals and entities have an interest.

The newly authorized transactions, he said, “do not explicitly authorize financial transfers to the Taliban or the Haqqani network,” an affiliate organization.

The United Nations has asked for funds to expand a program it put in place in October to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of healthcare workers, with the money going to them directly and not through the Taliban government.

“It took a long time to understand the mechanisms,” said a senior administration official Biden, speaking on condition of anonymity under rules set by the administration. “As the situation evolves, we are going to find new ways to help.”

Officials said the administration was not currently considering unfreezing Afghanistan’s frozen reserve funds, noting that they are the subject of litigation by victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and were seized by federal courts.

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