The economic crisis in Afghanistan is growing worse as the Taliban’s control tightens.
Afghanistan, which is been in a state of unrest for over 40 years, was already in an economic crisis. The country depends on international aid for over three-quarters of its economy and governmental budget. Now, as the Taliban violently takes over cities and the Islamic State contributes to chaos with increased bombings, much of that aid is evaporating, leaving the country in a precarious position.
On Saturday, August 28, hundreds of Afghans were moved to protest in occupied Kabul when cash machines that drew on foreign banks dried up, leaving many without access to their saved funds. Tens of thousands of Afghans are dependent on that money as they try to leave the country.
On top of empty ATMs, many Afghan civil servants haven’t been paid in months, with banks only open intermittently. With the Taliban seizing control of government operations, they can’t expect those checks to resume anytime soon, either – the Taliban doesn’t have any access to the central bank’s $9 billion in reserves, which is held in New York.
Underpinning the economic crisis and, to a certain degree, the unrest itself, Afghanistan is 25 years into a drought that has grown significantly worse in the past three years, currently threatening the livelihoods of over 7 million Afghans. According to the U.N. World Food Program, approximately one-third of all Afghans, or around 14 million people, currently require food assistance.
Over 100,000 Afghans have already been evacuated from the country, many wealthier citizens. Their departure, taking economic support with them, will continue to deepen the crisis.
Whether or not humanitarian aid can reach Afghanistan in the coming months remains to be seen. Much depends on the Taliban and whether or not they come through on promises of more moderate rule. If they behave as they did the last time they controlled Afghanistan, with frequent public executions, women confined to homes, and television and music banned as corrupting influences, sanctions may be too strict for aid to reach those in need.
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