Demand Return of Afghan Reserves and Aid for Refugees
by Dave Stockton
After 40 years of war Afghanistan momentarily seemed to be at peace after the Taliban took power for the second time in mid-August. But the Taliban have taken over a devastated country.
About one-third of the country’s population of 38 million is facing ‘emergency’ or ‘crisis’ levels of food insecurity, according to Ramiz Alakbarov, the local UN humanitarian coordinator. Two million children are malnourished and one million in acute danger of starvation. In part this is the result of a year-long drought in the southern parts of the country, the second in three years. But it is also because of the destruction of roads, bridges, dams and whole villages by the contending forces; crops have not been sown or harvested.
The World Food Program’s deputy regional director said, ‘The country’s foreign exchange is mostly blocked now. And therefore, people simply don’t have the money they need to be able to buy basics like food and health care.’
Ajmal Ahmal, the Afghan state bank’s exiled acting governor, has stated ‘The accessible funds to the Taliban are perhaps 0.1-0.2% of Afghanistan’s total international reserves. Not much.’ Indeed. Most of Afghanistan’s reserves (between $6–10 billion) are held in western banks like the the US Federal Reserve or the Bank of England, which are refusing to release them to the Taliban government.
The Western governments and NGOs make much of their support for women’s rights, urging non-recogntion of the government, complaining that the Taliban refuses to allow aid in—while holding Afghanistan’s reserves hostage. Socialists in surrounding countries and in the imperialist heartlands should oppose this blackmail and demand the return of the country’s reserves. In addition, the western powers should send massive amounts of food aid to the country with no strings attached. The Nato powers and their allies in the region should pay reparations for war damage and provide civilian experts to help rebuild the country’s infrastructure.
On 30 September Taliban fighters fired on a protest organised by women in Kabul demanding that all girls in Afghanistan be allowed to return to secondary school. The government has said they will eventually allow this, but, because boys and girls are not permitted to study in the same buildings or classrooms, it is girls who are de facto barred from education.
While spokesmen in Kabul issue mollifying statements, the differences reported in other cities and provinces, let alone in the countryside, indicate that the Taliban’s interpretation of Islamic law and its punishments, like whipping with lengths of electric cable are once again on the rise.
The Taliban are a reactionary organisation, but allowing Afghans to starve in revenge for the Taliban victory will only strengthen their support—and that of other groups like Islamic State.
Socialists and trade unionists internationally must demand entry and support for refugees and mobilise support for women’s rights activists, like the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, RAWA, which opposed both the US–Nato occupation and today’s Taliban. As RAWA say, ‘freedom and democracy can’t be donated; it is the duty of the people of a country to fight and achieve these values.’