February 14, 2022

The US can aid Afghans without boosting the Taliban

By Richard Fontaine and Lisa Curtis

After last summer's cataclysmic evacuation from Kabul, over 100,000 Afghans are now making the United States their new home. Americans have responded with warmth and generosity, befitting this country's deep ties to the Afghan people. Forged over two decades of war, those bonds remain exceptional, even after the final withdrawal of American troops.

In addition to extending help to the fraction of struggling Afghans lucky enough to secure a flight out of the country, America must also help the tens of millions of suffering Afghans who remain. Today, the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has reached catastrophic proportions and portends even worse over the near term. Despite the understandable desire to avoid strengthening the Taliban - and the foolish wish of those who want to simply close the book on Afghanistan - the Biden administration can and should provide urgent help.

The Biden administration should help alleviate Afghan suffering while preserving a degree of leverage with the Taliban on both human rights and terrorism concerns

It is hard to overestimate the scale of suffering today. Most international assistance disappeared after the Taliban took control of the country, and $10 billion in Afghan foreign reserves were immediately frozen, leaving the economy bereft of liquidity. In September, the World Food Program estimated that 14 million Afghans faced crisis-level hunger. Now the number is 22 million - more than half the country's population - and nearly 5 million are expected to suffer severe malnutrition this year. The International Rescue Committee believes 90 percent of all Afghan health clinics may shut down soon. The United Nations says more than $5 billion in emergency aid is urgently required; the United States has so far provided more than $500 million.

Relieving the humanitarian crisis is, of course, only one American aim in Afghanistan. Washington rightly wishes to press the Taliban to improve human rights and ensure that terrorist groups do not grow stronger. As a result, the Biden administration should help alleviate Afghan suffering while preserving a degree of leverage with the Taliban on both human rights and terrorism concerns.

Read the full article from The Hill.

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