The United Nations has alerted that Afghanistan is at danger of “total breakdown” of the international community does not find a way to keep money flowing into Afghanistan despite concerns over the Taliban government.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said in a report released on Thursday that about 97 percent of Afghanistan’s population may sink below the poverty line unless the country’s political and economic crises are addressed.
Nearly $10bn of Afghanistan’s central bank assets are currently frozen overseas and considered key leverage over the new administration.
But the UN special envoy on Afghanistan Deborah Lyons told the Security Council on Thursday that a way needed to be found to get the money into the country “to prevent a total breakdown of the economy and social order” noting that Afghanistan was facing a storm of crises including a plunging currency, a sharp rise in prices for food and fuel and a lack of cash at private banks. The authorities also do not have the funds to pay salaries, she said.
“The economy must be allowed to breathe for a few more months, giving the Taliban a chance to demonstrate flexibility and a genuine will to do things differently this time, notably from a human rights, gender, and counter terrorism perspective,” Lyons told the 15-member Council, saying safeguards could be devised to ensure the funds were not misused.
Foreign donors led by the United States provided more than 75 percent of the public expenditure for the Afghanistan government that crumbled as the US withdrew its troops after 20 years in the country.
President Joe Biden’s administration has said it is open to donating humanitarian aid but says that any direct economic lifeline, including unfreezing the central bank assets, will be contingent on Taliban actions including allowing safe passage to people to leave. The first civilian flight out of Kabul – carrying more than 100 passengers – landed in Qatar on Thursday.
The International Monetary Fund has also blocked the Taliban from accessing some $440m in new emergency reserves.
“The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is simple: any legitimacy and support will have to be earned,” senior US diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis told the Security Council.
Russia and China, which has offered millions in emergency aid to the country, have both argued for the release of Afghanistan’s frozen assets.
“These assets belong to Afghanistan and should be used for Afghanistan, not as leverage for threats or restraints,” China’s Deputy UN Ambassador Geng Shuang said.
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