The US Can Prevent Afghans from Dying of Hunger
Lida Azim / Afghans For A Better Tomorrow & MoveOn.org
(November 1, 2021) — BREAKING: The United Nations reports that food in Afghanistan could run out this month.1
In addition, public servants aren’t being paid, businesses can’t function or import necessities, and the price of things like oil and flour is skyrocketing — even with humanitarian exceptions in place. Worse, the country is running out of cash, meaning people’s ability to buy anything is quickly disappearing.2 This impacts the basic needs of the country, and Afghanistan’s medical system is on the verge of collapse.
Since the fall of the former Afghan government, the Biden administration has essentially cut off aid intended for the Afghan people. But President Biden has responded to pressure before — which is why I started a petition calling on his administration to unfreeze $150 million per month worth of Afghan assets. Releasing these funds, which belong to the Afghan people to begin with, will help prevent an economic collapse that is potentially days away, and independent monitoring systems can ensure that the funds go to people in Afghanistan who need help and not toward the Taliban’s political aims.
Why is this happening? One big factor is the former government of Afghanistan kept their money — the money of people in Afghanistan — in international accounts, including in the United States, because of safety and a good rate of return. Those accounts have been frozen since the Taliban took over the country, and this has directly hurt Afghan civilians on the ground trying to survive.3
One of the hardest things about the last few months has been how little the needs of people in Afghanistan have been centered during the crises. It’s crucial to remember that before and during the US invasion of Afghanistan, Afghans were pushing back against corruption, pushing for women’s rights, and fighting for justice. This struggle continued amidst drone strikes and escalating violence over the last two decades — and continues now even as the Taliban has come back into power.
We can’t leave the people of Afghanistan to cope with a devastating economic crisis that will further exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian crisis after 20 years of war on our watch. We can support their demands and advocate for them without pretending that the Taliban is anything but a cruel and oppressive group.
The group I co-founded, Afghans For a Better Tomorrow, is calling for some of Afghanistan’s frozen assets to be released — and monitored carefully. This money belongs to and needs to go to the people of Afghanistan to help them face this moment of crisis. Or women, children, and families will pay the price of starvation and economic misery.
What we’re hearing from partners on the ground is that this crisis is days and not weeks away — and we need to increase the pressure on President Biden now before it’s too late.
I know that for many of us watching what’s unfolding in Afghanistan has been heart-wrenching, even more so for those of you who may be from or have family there.
We as a movement have always called for a just end to the US war and occupation. And here’s the reality: There is no justice in famine, there is no justice in allowing people who aren’t responsible for the decisions of their government to suffer. US troops may have left, but we will continue calling for justice and accountability for the US actions that helped get us to this point.
President Biden — We urge you to immediately unfreeze and release $150 million out of $7.1 billion at the New York Federal Reserve Bank each month to the Central Bank of Afghanistan, under the oversight of an independent public auditor, so that Afghans can purchase food, clothes, and other basic necessities, and civil servants can get paid. The Taliban’s control of the country should not mean that the Afghan people should suffer because of it.
1. “Food in Afghanistan could run out this month, UN official says,” PBS Newshour, September 1, 2021
3. “With foreign funds frozen, Afghan aid groups stuck in limbo,” Associated Press, September 16, 2021
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