Afghanistan’s per capita income fell by more than a third in the last quarter of 2021, according to a World Bank semi-annual regional update released on 14 April.
“One of the poorest countries in the world just got a lot poorer,” assured Tobias Haque, the World Bank’s chief economist for the country.
Haque said in a briefing that ”the isolation of the Afghan economy following the political crisis that began last August risks severe poverty, displacement, fragility and threats of extremism.”
The World Bank previously warned that about 37 percent of households did not have enough money to buy food. Under current conditions, the outlook for the economy is dire, and the country’s real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita could shrink by 34 percent by the end of 2022.
Meanwhile, 75 percent of the population does not get enough food and 58 percent do not have shelter.
The UN said that the number of severely hungry people in Afghanistan rose to 23 million in March and that the situation mostly affects children, with 3.5 million children in need of nutritional treatment.
Health officials have also revealed that since January 2022 over 13,000 newborn babies have died as a result of malnutrition and the gradual collapse of the healthcare sector.
Months after the Taliban victory against the US-backed Afghan army, Afghanistan’s economic future remains gloomy as 97 percent of Afghans could fall below the poverty line by mid-2022.
A poll by the US-based Gallup analytics firm highlights the record figure. However, the percentage could be higher as the economy remains on a tailspin due to the effect of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine over global food markets.
The US also seized billions of dollars of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves, depriving the central Asian nation of much-needed resources.
US sanctions have decimated the Afghan economy, one that was already crippled by two decades of war by the US. The situation has been further worsened by droughts that have hit some regions of Afghanistan over the past three years.
The scenario is increasingly difficult with foreign aid stagnating, the economy collapsing, banking and financial systems crippled, and millions of jobs lost.
MARCH 18, 2022
When the United States stole $7 billion from Afghanistan on February 11, that was no mere crime of robbery. It was a war crime and a crime against humanity that condemns possibly millions of Afghans to starvation. In short, prelude to genocide. Biden prevaricates about his excuse for this outright theft of Afghan funds, namely compensating the 9/11 victims. The Afghan government didn’t kill their loved ones, indeed back in 2001 the Taliban offered to turn the al Qaeda culprits over to Washington. The U.S. refused the offer and invaded instead.
Biden’s shocking action makes all Americans complicit in sickening atrocities. According to UNICEF, “more than 23 million Afghans face acute hunger, including 9 million who are nearly famished.” By the middle of this year, 97 percent of Afghans will be in poverty, the UN estimates. To say these people need every penny of their $7 billion is an understatement. To say those who steal half of it from them are monsters is the only moral assessment of such larceny. (The other half will supposedly be returned to them at some unspecified future date.) Biden has done highway robbers one better: “Your money AND your life” is the new American message, delivered in ringing tones of mendacious self-righteousness.
This particular heist equals roughly 40 percent of the Afghan economy and approximately 14 months of Afghan imports, according to Mark Weisbrot in the February 4 Sacramento Bee. But Biden earlier slapped other sanctions on the country, as a parting gift when U.S. troops finally left after 20 years of wrecking the place. Overall Biden’s sanctions mean “more people will die…over the next year than the number who died in 20 years of war,” Weisbrot wrote in the March 15 CounterPunch. That’s because Biden’s gratuitous sanctions kill funding for the Afghan government along with money for desperately needed food imports. So between the multi-decade U.S. war on this poor nation, drought, covid and frozen currency reserves – frozen by the Biden administration, just to be clear – it’s no wonder millions of pauperized Afghans hover over the abyss of starvation.
Thus Biden cancelled out the good he did by yanking U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. The military withdrew, but the U.S. president opened the door to famine. And that killer walked right in. This entirely man-made catastrophe could be averted, of course. Lift the sanctions. Give Afghanistan back all of its money and lives will be saved. Don’t and lots of people will die.
Clare Daly, MEP from Dublin summed it up best in a March 8 speech: “There’s no doubt about it, we’re living in times where…the lives of innocent civilians are sacrificed in the wars of their masters. Yes in Ukraine, but not only. Since the last plenary tens of thousands of Afghani citizens have been forced to flee in search of food and safety, five million children face famine, an agonizing and painful death, a five hundred percent increase in child marriages and children being sold just so they can survive, and not a mention of it, not here, not anywhere, no wall-to-wall TV coverage, no emergency humanitarian response, no special plenaries, not even a mention in this plenary, no Afghani delegations and no statements. My God, they must be wondering what makes their humanitarian crisis so unimportant. Is it the color of their skin, is it that they’re not white? They’re not European? That their problems come from a U.S. gun or a U.S. invasion? Is it that the decision to rob their country’s wealth was taken by a despotic U.S. president rather than a Russian one? Because my God, all wars are evil, and all victims deserve support and until we get on that page, we have no credibility whatsoever.”
What if Russia or China engaged in such murderous chicanery? Well, Russians and Ukrainians are killing each other right now, but the projected Afghan starvation death toll beats anything they’ve come up with so far. And though Biden’s actions put Chinese treatment of the Uyghurs to shame – after all, their deaths are merely suspected, whereas Afghan deaths in the hundreds of thousands are a certainty if the U.S. pursues its insane cruelty – don’t expect furious denunciations of the sort regularly leveled at Beijing from the corporate media. No. Our press tiptoes around our government’s culpability. But that’s to be expected from our media, aka Washington’s propaganda megaphone, once known as a proud free press. Free no longer. The only freedom of thought lies in the occasional unexpected investigative report or in the margins of independent media.
One exception was a March 5 article in the Guardian by Selay Ghaffar. “Across the country, five million children are on the brink of famine. Many young people are in despair; suicide is on the rise,” Ghaffar writes and then laments the soaring price of wheat due to the Ukraine war. This rise in cost means more people will starve. Part of the reason is that during the 20-year U.S. occupation, the country was “made into a dependency, relying on flows of humanitarian aid.” Biden “has refused responsibility for America’s intervention in our country.”
The lesson of the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan and the promptly ensuing sanctions is damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Any country Washington attacks has a Solomon’s choice: surrender or fight and win and then face Washington’s global financial fury and the mass destitution it engenders. That’s how the empire works. It’s the sorest loser on the globe. Defeated, it exacts an excruciating revenge.
If the geniuses in Washington think they can win the propaganda war on Afghanistan, they better think again. Too many people will die to be concealed. Many cloistered Americans who consider their country blameless may not know about the Washington-inflicted mass death, but the rest of the world sure does. Just look at the front page of China’s Global Times back on February 23. It featured Afghanistan’s Washington-imposed agony, with a petition demanding the U.S. return money to Afghans. And that’s not the only international headline to point out Washington’s brutality. As corpses pile up, the appalling U.S. starvation of Afghans inevitably becomes as widely known as its aid to the slaughter in Yemen. But the callous sociopaths who inflict this policy on an entire nation seem scarcely to notice.
According to Vox back on January 22, before the August fall of Kabul to the Taliban, the country “relied heavily on foreign aid; after the Taliban takeover, that influx of cash ceased…In December the World Food Program found that 98 percent of Afghans aren’t getting enough to eat.” Afghan famine has one culprit: “The U.S. decision to halt aid to the country and freeze billions in Afghan government funds.”
One can only hope some major power, like maybe China, comes to the rescue. China is generally careful about illegal U.S. sanctions, but it has cordial relations with the Afghan government and wants to include the country in its Belt and Road Initiative. Perhaps China could coordinate with the UN to put some food on Afghan tables – not too much, of course, because that would offend the omnipotent nitwits in the U.S. government. But maybe just enough to save some lives.
Recording and Links from Report Back from Afghanistan
Help Us Support Girls’ Schools in Afghanistan!
A group of U.S. women leaders from different fields, all of whom have done important humanitarian work in Afghanistan for many years, will be traveling to Afghanistan to witness the opening of girls’ schools as the school year begins this spring.
The U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August of 2021 impacted businesses, NGOs, and schools alike. When the western countries withdrew their troops, they also withdrew support for basic services like education that the country relied on. In addition, they froze the assets that the Central Bank had overseas, making it impossible for the government to pay its civil servants. To make matters worse, the designation of the Taliban as a terrorist organization and the sanctions imposed on Afghanistan have contributed to the severe economic crisis that Afghanistan is now facing.
The schools face tremendous challenges. Teachers have gone for months without salaries, and payments continue to be erratic. Students whose families are suffering from extreme poverty are unable to pay for their school supplies. There is no money for the upkeep of the schools or regular payment for support staff.
With the funds we bring, we will help girls get school supplies and teachers get paid.
At a time of great change in Afghanistan, girls’ access to education has never been more critical.
Thank you for your help.
A Women-Led Campaign Supporting the Afghan People’s Wish to Live in Peace and Prosperity
OUR PURPOSE IS TO KEEP A FOCUS ON AFGHANISTAN’S CIVILIAN POPULATION
WE ARE A COALITION OF US AND AFGHAN WOMEN
WE ARE NOT A POLITICAL GROUP. WE DON’T HAVE A POLITICAL AFFILIATION
WE ARE COMMITTED TO AFGHAN WOMEN
WE CALL ON THE US TO UNFREEZE AFGHAN FUNDS AND STOP STRANGLING THE COUNTRY’S ECONOMIC RECOVERY
WE CALL ON THE TALIBAN TO RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS AND TO ENSURE EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN
STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE SUSPENSION OF GIRLS’ RETURN TO SECONDARY SCHOOL IN AFGHANISTAN
URGENT CALL TO ACTION
On February 11, President Biden issued an Executive Order regarding the $7 billion of Afghan funds invested in the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. Biden called for the money to be divided in two, with half going to compensate 9/11 families who had been suing the Taliban for sheltering Al Qaeda and the other half going to humanitarian aid. But the Afghan people are not responsible for 9/11 and more than humanitarian aid, they need their money to be returned to their Central Bank to shore up their collapsing economy. Moreover, these funds are not Biden’s to distribute. They belong to the Afghan people. Join us in expressing outrage at Biden’s cruel, unilateral measure and calling on him to reverse this decision.
Afghanistan Approaches Brink of Disaster- LA Progressive
Gay rights, women’s rights — in reality, these are a nuisance to many U.S. conservatives, but purporting to protect these rights on the other side of the world is a great excuse to play war.
And you don’t need bombs to play. All you need is the will to dominate and the ability to dehumanize “the enemy,” so that their lives can be trashed if (and when) necessary.
I have to confess a stunned speechlessness as I learn about the looming fate of Afghanistan, if President Biden refuses to release $9.4 billion of its assets to the country’s central bank, which it had deposited abroad, primarily at the U.S. Federal Reserve, during the 20-year war. With the Taliban reclaiming power after the U.S. withdrawal last August, the president seized control of these assets, potentially plunging Afghanistan into economic freefall, and . . . oh God . . .
“United Nations officials are warning that millions of Afghans could run out of food before winter, with 1 million children at risk of starvation. . . .
“No increase in food and medical aid can compensate for the macroeconomic harm of soaring prices of basic commodities, a banking collapse, a balance-of-payments crisis, a freeze on civil servants’ salaries, and other severe consequences that are rippling throughout Afghan society, harming the most vulnerable.”
These words are from a letter to Biden last December, signed by 48 members of Congress, urging him not to play economic war with the people of Afghanistan, even though the Taliban is in power. Enduring 20 years of war is one thing, but it doesn’t compare with living in the midst of total economic collapse.
A million children could die of starvation.
This is almost beyond comprehension. Indeed, families are being forced to take unthinkable actions to survive.
“Many of Afghanistan’s growing number of destitute people are making desperate decisions . . . as their nation spirals into a vortex of poverty,” according to the Associated Press. For instance: “Arranging marriages for very young girls is a frequent practice throughout the region. The groom’s family — often distant relatives — pays money to seal the deal, and the child usually stays with her own parents until she is at least around 15 or 16. Yet with many unable to afford even basic food, some say they’d allow prospective grooms to take very young girls or are even trying to sell their sons.”
Jean Athey of Peace Action, noting that the U.S. spent some $2.3 trillion dollars on the Afghanistan war, points out that:
“for the people of Afghanistan, the war has not ended, nor has the killing. The new economic war is expected to kill more Afghans in four months this winter than did the ‘kinetic’ war in twenty years. No one expects the leaders of the Taliban to suffer. But everyone agrees that hundreds of thousands of babies will die. In fact, Afghanistan in 2022 is shaping up to be one of the worst, possibly the worst, humanitarian catastrophe on record, for any country.”
Such data raises endless questions, all of which can be reduced to a single word: Why? Why? Why?
The consciousness of war still rules. The basic, abstract answer is simply: the Taliban. They are cruel and brutal and deny many people their basic rights as human beings. True as that may be, how can the U.S. government and its unquestioning supporters fail to see the irony of our faux-outrage over this, when we have been killing civilians there with impunity for decades and are now prepared to preside over a starvation holocaust? Furthermore, we gladly support and ally ourselves with brutally oppressive governments all over the world, as long as they bend to our wishes and align themselves with our “interests.”
The time is now to ally ourselves with a million children on the brink of starvation and directly acknowledge the endless failure of war, including economic war. The primary victims are always the innocent.
The letter to Biden from 48 members of Congress — barely 10 percent of the House — addressed the issue thus:
“We deplore the new Taliban government’s grave human rights abuses, crackdowns on civil society and repression of women and LBGTQ people. However, pragmatic U.S. engagement with the de facto authorities is nevertheless key to averting unprecedented harm to tens of millions of women, children and innocent civilians. Punitive economic policies will not weaken Taliban leaders, who will be shielded from the direst consequences, while the overwhelming impact of these measures will fall on innocent Afghans who have already suffered decades of war and poverty.”
The letter ends with a quote from Mary-Ellen McGroarty of World Food Program: “We need to separate the politics from the humanitarian imperative.”
If instead we continue to wage the “war on evil” that George W. Bush began, we will continue to be part of that evil. Think about the millions of Afghans facing starvation in their shattered country, then imagine the consequences coming home.
Milwaukee vigil on Saturday, Feb 12, 2022 at noon – 1 PM, Kinnickinnic Ave and Lincoln
Biden administration to end policies are strangling the Afghan economy and causing mass starvation.
Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, has warned that millions of Afghans are on the “verge of death,” 22.8 million Afghans – or more than half of the country’s population – will face acute food insecurity this winter and one million children risk dying of malnutrition.
He urges the international community to fund the U.N.’s $5 billion humanitarian appeal, release Afghanistan’s frozen assets and jump-start its banking system to avert economic and social collapse. First they lost their father… then their mother died. So the eight kids were left to fend for themselves, alone in Afghanistan. Neighbors tried to help, but they were hungry, too. The eight children starved to death. The youngest wasn't even 2 years old.
It isn’t technically feasible for NGOs and humanitarian partners to cover the entirety of Afghanistan’s food supply. In both the immediate and long term, Afghans need not just bags of flour but also a viable currency, access to U.S. dollars, and trade financing to support food sales and essential government-run services.
“Love to Afghanistan” Valentine’s Vigils and Advocacy
After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, the Afghan people are suffering more than ever. Hunger could kill more now than in 20 years of war. This humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is in the words of the International Red Cross a “human-made catastrophe.” “Human-made” largely by coercive U.S. economic policies.
We can mobilize to change these harmful policies with these actions:
Starting NOW, we can all pressure members of Congress to call on the administration to unfreeze the frozen funds, relax sanctions, and increase humanitarian aid. As of this writing, the main focus is getting Senators to support the Merkley Letter on the looming Afghanistan famine and the economic collapse driving the suffering.
This February 14th, we will also join together nationwide to call for “Love to Afghanistan.” These vigils will have a clear call to unfreeze the assets and relax U.S. sanctions and attendees can be asked to take further action by contacting Congress. We suggest pushing for this by holding silent vigils throughout the country. You can also pick a day near Valentine’s Day if that is best for you.
If you are able to healthwise, we can encourage you to fast – in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan – until at least sundown. But everyone can be invited to attend. See below for materials for the vigils including an action flyer for attendees.
On Monday February 7th there will be a webinar about the crisis, including the economic policies driving it with Dr. Shah Mehrabi who has been a member of the board of governors of the Afghan Central Bank.