Editorial: Unfreeze Afghanistan

IssueFebruary - March 2022
Comment by Milan Rai

Some 23 million people in extreme hunger. A million children under five in immediate danger of starvation.

This is not a natural disaster. It is a horrifying case of the United States taking an entire nation hostage and torturing an entire people.

Dominik Stillhart, director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Agence France-Presse last November that the economic sanctions ‘meant to punish those in power in Kabul are instead freezing millions of people across Afghanistan out of the basics they need to survive.’

There is a moral responsibility on people in the UK to press the British government to move for the unfreezing of over $9bn of Afghan government funds being held hostage by the US government.

Those $9bn belong to the Afghan people – to people who are freezing and going hungry and being deprived of education and healthcare, all because public services and the economy are collapsing under the weight of US sanctions. It’s about re-inflating the economy, not about giving some aid.

Congressional letter

40 members of congress have written to US president Joe Biden calling for the unfreezing of the $9bn: ‘It is also important to clarify that the overwhelming majority of reserves returned to the central bank of Afghanistan will be used primarily to purchase imports by Afghanistan’s private sector, which comprises the dominant share of Afghanistan’s economy.

‘By denying international reserves to Afghanistan’s private sector – including more than $7 billion belonging to Afghanistan and deposited at the [US] Federal Reserve – the U.S. government is impacting the general population.

‘We fear, as aid groups do, that maintaining this policy could cause more civilian deaths in the coming year than were lost in 20 years of war.’

David Beasley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina, has called on the Biden administration to immediately release the $9bn.

Beasley, now the head of the UN World Food Programme, told the New Yorker: ‘If you unfreeze the money, then you can put liquidity back into the marketplace, and the economy will start to come back up. If you don’t, we’re not going to need to feed 22 or 23 million people per month – we are going to need to be feeding 35 million people.... This country will absolutely collapse.’

You may like to use points made here and last issue to write to your local paper and to your local MP: www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/

Topics: Afghanistan
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