In Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, aid groups are overwhelmed by the starving. More than half the population, the United Nations has warned, won’t get enough to eat this winter. The biggest problem isn’t a lack of food. Rather, it’s the disappearance of what had been the lifeblood of the Afghan economy — Western cash.
As fears of a humanitarian disaster mount, the West faces a desperate dilemma: Can it help Afghans without aiding the Taliban?
The answer depends on your definition of “aid.” But a range of creative solutions are circulating — with some already being put to use — that could begin to address warnings from relief agencies that Western sanctions on the Taliban are hurting the Afghan people.
More radical steps have also been floated, some of which either the Taliban or Washington could oppose. For instance, Alex Zerden, a former U.S. Treasury official, argues for the privatization of the Afghan central bank to allow for large transfers while also ring-fencing them from possible Taliban looting. Short of that, the central bank’s core functions — such as auctioning off dollars to local banks — could be transferred to a private bank, which could be approved and monitored by the United States and other partners.
“The Afghanistan International Bank is the most likely candidate for this deputization,” he wrote for the Lawfare Blog.
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