By Abayomi Azikiwe
While the administration of President Joe Biden is consistently escalating tensions between the Russian Federation and the United States over the status of Ukraine, the people of Afghanistan are condemning the expropriation of billions of dollars by the White House in an ongoing attempt to cripple the government in Kabul.
Although it does not appear that the majority of people in Ukraine, both within and outside the government, wants war with Moscow, the international community is reminded of the coup which occurred in February 2014 when the administration of former President Barack Obama engineered a removal of the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych.
The withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan in August 2021, weakened the image of the White House under Biden. Perhaps Biden is attempting to regain a portion of the perceived military prowess of Washington by provoking an incident with Moscow over the independence of Ukraine.
With specific reference to Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Pentagon, State Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) removal, the Biden administration has sought to starve the population. The assets which rightfully belonged to the Afghan people were confiscated by the U.S. at the time of the rapid U.S. retreat.
Just recently the Biden administration announced that it will redirect half of the $7 billion of Afghanistan funds being held in U.S. banks to victims of the attacks on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Yet there has never been any substantiated proof that the Taliban, the ruling organization in Kabul, was directly responsible for these hijackings and crashes.
Moreover, there has never been any mention by Biden of the horrendous crimes committed by the U.S. occupation forces during their 20-year stint in Afghanistan. Thousands of Pentagon troops and contractors were killed along with hundreds of thousands of Afghan fighters and civilians. It was the U.S. which invaded and occupied Afghanistan in an effort to remake the country as an outpost of imperialism in Central Asia.
An article published by Newsweek on February 15 said:
“’[The attacks on] 9/11 had nothing to do with Afghans,’ said one sign at a protest attended by more than 3,000 people. ‘Shame Shame Mr. Biden, you kill us, you bomb us and now you steal our money.’ The legality of such a move has also been questioned by Afghans, including financial adviser Torek Farhadi. ‘These reserves belong to the people of Afghanistan, not the Taliban,’ Farhadi told the Associated Press. ‘Biden’s decision is one-sided and does not match with international law. No other country on Earth makes such confiscation decisions about another country’s reserves.’ This is a belief that many Afghans who have been protesting the reserve split have agreed with. One of the core messages of the recent protests was that Afghanistan, as a country, was not responsible for the September 11 attacks. Thus, they should not have to pay the victims of the attack or their families.”
Such decisions by the Biden White House can only aggravate the existing tensions between Washington, its allies, and Kabul. The withholding of even more Afghan funds from the Taliban government undoubtedly lessens the prospects for normalization of relations.
The Deteriorating Humanitarian Crisis
During the course of the two decades of U.S. occupation in Afghanistan, the people of that country suffered immensely. Even prior to 2001, the U.S. had been involved in destabilizing the former socialist-oriented government since the late 1970s.
Therefore, successive administrations in Washington are responsible for the current humanitarian crisis involving the lack of a functioning monetary system and food insecurity impacting the overwhelming majority of the population. Rather than seizing control of Afghan assets, the U.S., in fact, owes huge sums of money in reparations to the country.
The redeployment of Pentagon troops and all U.S. personnel coincided with the further weakening of Afghanistan’s national infrastructure. The banking system was dislodged by the fleeing U.S. occupation forces while thousands of people employed by the apparatus established to facilitate the war operations, lost their jobs. Existing businesses and public institutions have been left without the ability to deposit and withdraw funds to pay employees.
Estimates suggest that 97% of the Afghan population are living below the poverty line with no immediate hope for a rise in income. 23 million people, more than half of the population of nearly 40 million, are facing extreme food deficits leaving the country on the brink of famine.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) issued a report on February 15 warning of a potentially horrendous situation in Afghanistan. This agency does relief work in some of the most distressed geo-political regions in the world. The organization has been involved in Afghanistan since 1988 during the concluding period of Soviet intervention in support of the former socialist-oriented government.
Since the exit of tens of thousands of U.S. troops, State Department functionaries and assistants from the occupied territory, the Biden administration has literally turned its back on the country. This lack of interest or engagement could be aimed at removing the specter of the Afghan military failure from the political consciousness of the people in the U.S. and their western allies. It could also be a method of punishing the Taliban government for its defeat of the U.S. which had placed enormous resources in what inevitably became a resounding failure.
A statement issued by IRC Afghanistan country director Vicki Aken in regard to the humanitarian crisis emphasized:
“The IRC works across dozens of crisis and conflict settings, but we have not seen an entire country deteriorate this fast in recent years. Since August, the international community has cut off non-humanitarian funding, which amounted to 40 per cent of GDP and propped up 75 percent of public spending, including basic services. This economic crisis is contributing to a catastrophic humanitarian emergency that has left a quarter of the population facing the risk of famine – the largest population experiencing such extreme levels of hunger in the world. Afghan families are being forced into more and more desperate measures of survival. Mothers and their children are sitting in snowfall, begging for money; parents are forced to sell their daughters into early marriage to bring cash for their families.”
Aken believes that the looming famine could result in the deaths of more people than during the twenty years long occupation by the Pentagon and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Unless action is taken in the short term, the outcomes will compound the nature of the war crimes committed by the U.S. in Afghanistan. The IRC says emphatically that the current situation in Afghanistan is a direct result of the foreign policies of the U.S. and its allies.
Britain has announced that it will co-host with the United Nations a donors’ conference to support Afghanistan. The conference will seek to fulfill what is the largest ever UN appeal for a single country, $4.4 billion.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss outlined the purpose of the conference emphasizing:
“The conference is a critical moment for the international community to step up support in an effort to stop the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The scale of need is unparalleled, and consequences of inaction will be devastating. The UK is determined to lead the global effort. We will bring international allies together to raise vital aid to deliver food, shelter and health services, protect women and girls and support stability in the region.”
The U.S. Should Not Be Allowed to Avoid Responsibility for the Crisis
As the British government makes an announcement of its intentions to support Afghanistan, historically several different Conservative and Labor administrations in London have followed Washington’s lead in waging war in Central Asia. British troops served and died as well in the failed Afghan war that destroyed the country.
However, the major culprit in the decades of war and underdevelopment is the U.S. These interventions, including and by no means limited to Afghanistan, are the major source of much of the instability in the world.
At present the world is experiencing unprecedented levels of dislocation. The number of refugees, internally displaced and stateless persons exceeds 82 million. This figure represents far more than those who were forced from their homes during World War II.
Over the previous three decades, the U.S., NATO and their allies have deployed millions of troops to destabilize, rob, bomb, maim, kill and occupy peoples from Iraq to Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Haiti, among other states. The only solution to this crisis is the defunding of the Pentagon and the dismantling of Pentagon military bases internationally.