What if the longest war wasn’t over?
The big idea: what if the longest war wasn’t over?
The Daily strives to reveal a new idea in each episode. Below, we dig deeper into one of our show this week.
People fell from the sky, their bodies reduced to small dots on the horizon, scrambled by aircraft exhaust fumes and the intense August heat.
In a viral video taken on the tarmac at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, the world saw Afghans unsuccessfully cling to an ascending plane, trying to escape future Taliban rule. The video captured the fear that reigned in Afghanistan as US troops withdrew from the country – a fear of Taliban brutality and a return to their last authoritarian and harsh rule.
But months after the US withdrawal, the Taliban struggled for international legitimacy. Now, another fear has gripped Afghanistan: fear of famine as the country’s economy all but collapsed, fueling one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. An estimated 22.8 million people, more than half of the country’s population, are expected to face life-threatening food insecurity this winter.
The United States has publicly tried to wash its hands of its responsibilities in Afghanistan, with President Biden justifying the chaotic troop withdrawal by saying he “was not going to prolong this war forever.” But American influence still shapes the lives and livelihoods of millions of Afghans in the form of economic sanctions, revealing that there will be no clear end to America’s longest war. Below, we take a closer look at the impact of the sanctions discussed on Wednesday’s broadcast.
U.S. influence continues in Afghanistan
For years Afghanistan has been an aid state. American and international aid represented 45% of the country’s GNP and financed 75% of the government budget, including health and education services. But with the Taliban takeover, that aid – and that money flowing through the Afghan economy – has all but disappeared.
When the Taliban took control of the country, the Biden administration froze Afghanistan’s $ 9.5 billion in foreign exchange reserves and stopped sending the deliveries of U.S. dollars that the Afghan central bank was relying on. was pressing. The American objective was simple: to prevent the money from falling into the hands of the Taliban. But the effects of this policy were much more complicated. While the US sanctions were aimed at punishing the Taliban for their military takeover and limiting their ability to establish government legitimacy, the result was a general economic collapse in the country.
Afghanistan under the Taliban
With the departure of the US military on August 30, Afghanistan quickly fell back under Taliban control. Across the country, concern for the future is widespread.
“You now have a crisis in virtually every dimension,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, Emeritus Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There is now an aid crisis, a financial crisis, a jobs crisis, a governance crisis and a legal crisis.. “
With billions of dollars in public assets frozen abroad, Afghan banks are crippled and the country faces a severe cash shortage that has crippled business, hampered humanitarian services, pushed up food prices and fuel and triggered a widespread food crisis.
Widespread hunger is the most devastating sign economic crash and, as winter approaches, pressure is mounting on the US government to change course.
The impact of sanctions
At the end of September, the Biden administration granted two exemptions from sanctions to humanitarian organizations. But some have criticized the exemptions as unclear – and insufficient. In a country where the borders of government entities are cloudy, some humanitarian organizations and donors fear they may face inadvertent sanctions violations while continuing to support essential public services. Specifically, the exemptions do not apply to paid employees such as teachers in public schools and doctors in public hospitals.
Sanctions also hamper general humanitarian operations. Many foreign banks that aid organizations rely on to transfer funds to Afghanistan have severed ties with Afghan banks. And the liquidity crisis severely limits the amount that organizations can withdraw to pay vendors or aid workers.
David Miliband, a former UK foreign minister who is now chairman of the International Rescue Committee, questioned the argument for sanctions, which have been touted as essential to US security.
“Threat # 1 of the failed sanctions lift is on Afghan lives, but threat # 2 is on America’s reputation,” he said. “No. 3, there is a threat to American interests because if the implosion continues in Afghanistan, there are regional reverberations.
âThe lesson of the modern world is that instability anywhere has ripple effects. It’s actually not a complicated security issue, âhe added.
U.S. officials insist sanctions will remain in place and argue that multilateral aid from the United Nations and member states can support Afghans as winter approaches. The US government has offered more than $ 450 million in humanitarian aid and lobbied for multilateral aid to the Afghans.
“US aid is of course not sufficient to meet the looming needs of Afghanistan,” Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, senior advisor to the US mission to the United Nations, said during a briefing by the Council of security. âWe welcome creative solutions from the international community to help alleviate these challenges in a way that limits unwarranted benefits to the Taliban and sanctioned individuals. “
Mr Milband said: âWe don’t have to be so creative. It is very, very clear why a million children and nine million Afghans are on the brink of famine.
“My political judgment is that if people starve in Afghanistan, it will not be the Taliban who will be blamed,” he said. “It will be the West that will be blamed.”
From the Daily team: A look back at 2021
It was a year that, at times, seemed indistinguishable from the previous one. Le Quotidien devoted it to covering a crisis that seemed both extraordinary and banal: we chronicled vaccinations against coronaviruses, followed the rise of variants and integrated into the schools most affected by the pandemic.
But our team also researched the stories that stood out: the insurgency on Capitol Hill, the evolution of cryptocurrency, and the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. We told these stories through the voices of people who had witnessed them first-hand. We walked into an Oklahoma abortion clinic, watched Broadway reopen, and investigated the rise of the German far right.
It has been another great year, and we are grateful that you have stayed with us throughout. If you’ve missed any episodes, we’ve compiled a list of what we think are our best shows of the year. But we also asked you what are your favorite episodes. Here’s what you said (those answers have been edited slightly):
“I live in Canada and it is sometimes hard to understand why certain topics are so controversial (guns, abortion, health care), but the episode ‘They don’t understand that we are real people’ stood out. because it highlighted the real impact the law had on people’s lives. I was so moved listening to their stories that I had to take a break from my work. – Rushika Khatkar, 23 years old, from Ottawa, Canada
“My husband thinks my listening to The Daily is a financial responsibility because I regularly want to send money to the different people you introduce.” – Carolyn Cohen, 52, from New York City, who cited our episodes on NFT and the story of “N”, the Afghan girl in hiding from the Taliban, among the best shows of the year.