On August 2021, 20 years since it was last in power, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan once again. Following the withdrawal of the last American soldier, the group has enjoyed the last five months without opposition to its rule. This has resulted in severe consequences for the Afghans who have been unable or unwilling to flee the country.
The Taliban, which still has very strong ties to Al-Qaeda, has spent the last five months detaining both protesters and reporters, instating a new regiment of suicide bombers into the national army, and allowing Pakistani militant groups to operate within their borders. It has even decapitated mannequin heads that were being displayed in shops, to conform with its ideology. While it has been difficult for Afghan citizens to adapt to these changes, the severe rise in poverty is possibly the most difficult and dangerous change.
Since August, all international donations to the country have stopped as the international community shows its disapproval of the new regime. However, this disapproval comes with a cost. As 80% of the country’s total budget came from international donations, withholding these donations has led to mass famine in Afghanistan. 60% of the Afghan population is now suffering from acute hunger. As Taliban rule continues, the U.N. predicts that as much as 97% of the population may soon live below the poverty line.
When the Taliban regained control, thousands of Afghan citizens fled the country. A survey from 2019 stated that only 13.4% of Afghan citizens have any sympathy for the Taliban. The National Resistance Front was formed in August to combat the Taliban, but with no support, it quickly had to go underground. Representatives of the Taliban have stated that “Afghanistan’s soil will not be used against the security of any other country,” but this has done little to change the mind of the international community, which still refuses to send aid. The U.N. has said that it is “struggling to figure out how to get humanitarian aid to Afghans while bypassing the Taliban government,” and for as long as this is the case, the situation in the country will not change.
While I am not in favour of the U.S. military taking an imperialistic role in its occupation of Afghanistan, its swift withdrawal from the area has done more damage than good. It was unwise for the U.S. to think that Afghanistan would have been fine when it left; however, maybe it never should have entered in the first place. America’s so-called “War on Terror” was an unnecessary decision that set off a chain of events that led to Afghanistan’s current position.
America’s invasion of Afghanistan is in the past and cannot be undone. The best next thing for the Afghan people would be to remove the Taliban from power and replace it with a leadership that is more representative of the Afghan people’s values and beliefs. Although that would be a quick fix, it is unlikely that the Taliban would leave power so willingly. As such, until the international community figures out how to economically support the Afghan people, independently of the Taliban, the donations that made up 80% of the country’s budget should be continued. While it is not ideal to be funding a regime as extreme as the Taliban, it is a better alternative than allowing the majority of the country to slip into famine and poverty.
Afghanistan is no stranger to turmoil. The Cold War saw the country invaded and reduced to one of the poorest nations in the world. The War on Terror saw the country invaded again, and this time occupied for 20 years, fighting a war that eventually left it in an even worse place. Although the media no longer cover the country as much as they have in the past, now that the Taliban has solidified its hold on the country, the people of Afghanistan’s problems have only just begun.
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