After 20 years and trillions of dollars spent on warfare, this dire situation proves yet again that the Western occupation of Afghanistan utterly failed

Grace Cowan

The first snow of winter settles on the mountain peaks of the Hindu Kush. It serves as a stark reminder of the harsh weather and extreme starvation 23 million Afghans face this winter.

From Kabul to Badghis, the scenes are the same; hospitals struggling to save severely malnourished babies, families begging for food on street corners, and the elderly foraging in old crops for food that isn’t there. There have even been heartbreaking reports of desperate parents forced to sell their beloved children.

The worst drought in 35 years – brought on by climate chaos and exacerbated by the impact war has on agriculture and infrastructure – means hunger levels amongst the Afghan population were already alarmingly high when the Taliban retook control of the country in August.

Following the humiliating defeat of the British-backed U.S occupation, Western governments quickly curtailed aid to Afghanistan, cruelly punishing a people who had already endured more than four decades of conflict and hastening the country’s descent into widespread famine.

According to data from the World Bank, international aid once accounted for 40% of Afghanistan’s GDP. As a result of the standoff between the US and its allies and the Taliban, the international community now refuses to recognise the Taliban government, which means that Afghanistan’s economy is in free fall.

Reports from the UN suggest that only 5% of households in Afghanistan have enough food to survive. As a result of UN and bilateral sanctions restricting funds that previously paid the salaries of public and private employees, families who were once well-off can no longer afford the cost of even one meal a day.

Describing it as the “worst humanitarian crisis on Earth”, David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, said:

‘It is as bad as you possibly can imagine. In fact, we’re now looking at the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth. Ninety-five percent of the people don’t have enough food, and now we’re looking at 23 million people marching towards starvation. The next six months are going to be catastrophic. It is going to be hell on Earth.’

‘To the world leaders, to the billionaires: imagine this was your little girl, or boy, or grandchild, about to starve to death. You would do everything you possibly could. And when there is 400 trillion dollars’ worth of wealth on the Earth today, shame on us if we let any child die from hunger.’

After 20 years and trillions of dollars spent on warfare, this dire situation proves yet again that the Western occupation of Afghanistan utterly failed. Simply put, as the anti-war movement said 20 years ago, you cannot bomb democracy or stability into a nation.

Widespread famine and disaster are on the horizon for Afghanistan, but such outcomes are entirely avoidable. It is time for the international community to step up, lift all sanctions, and provide desperately needed economic assistance. With the lives of so many innocents on the line, there is no time to wait.


16 Nov 2021 by Grace Cowan

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