November 05, 2021

In Afghanistan, Winter is Here

By Jason Bartlett

The sudden fall of Kabul to the Taliban has exacerbated high levels of food insecurity within Afghanistan and added new challenges to US foreign policy, sanctions strategy, and humanitarian relief capabilities. The international community has responded through several humanitarian channels, such as UN donors pledging more than $1 billion USD for emergency assistance in September and the US providing nearly $144 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan last month, totaling $474 million in US aid alone to the country. Yet, as winter settles into the region, many are fearful that these efforts will not be enough.

The impact of US and UN sanctions on the distribution of funds and necessary resources for food, medicine, bank transactions, and other relief aid to Afghanistan raises significant humanitarian concerns. In particular, more than half of the Afghan population — approximately 22.8 million people — are projected to face acute food insecurity during a harsh winter season due to prolonged drought, conflict, and economic collapse.

The sudden fall of Kabul to the Taliban has exacerbated high levels of food insecurity within Afghanistan and added new challenges to US foreign policy, sanctions strategy, and humanitarian relief capabilities.

Although sanctions are a useful tool to incorporate within US foreign economic strategy, the Biden administration should ensure that all necessary precautions to mitigate unintended economic and humanitarian impacts on the Afghan people are taken. The best way to ensure that is to use the strategies recommended by the US Department of Treasury in its 2021 Sanctions Review that outlines how the US can modernize its sanctions’ policies in five ways: Linking sanctions to a clear policy objective; incorporating multilateral coordination; tailoring sanctions to reduce unintended political, economic, and humanitarian impacts; making the implementation of sanctions adaptable and easy; and updating the Treasury’s sanctions technology, infrastructure, and workforce.

The case of Afghanistan, however, indicates that sanctions related to the Taliban are complicated — and a looming food and humanitarian crisis may not speed up any major changes that are needed in the current sanctions regime.

Read the full article from Inkstick.

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