UN Aid Chief Martin Griffiths told The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that the Taliban is resisting humanitarian funding and interfering in the aid delivery in Afghanistan.
Blocking the Aid
The US forces withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021, ending a 20-year war that concluded in what Biden called “the largest airlift in US history” after the chaotic evacuation of more than 120,000 civilians. In his remarks, he said,
After 20 years — a trillion dollars spent training and equipping hundreds of thousands of Afghan National Security and Defense Forces, 2,448 Americans killed, 20,722 more wounded, and untold thousands coming home with unseen trauma to their mental health — I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.
Furthermore, he said that the US military forces’ withdrawal was a well-informed decision, as he was briefed every day on the updates on the battlefield. He also said that continuing to fight an indefinite war was not in the national interest of the United States.
Since then, the Taliban has taken over the country. The United Nations and aid groups are left struggling to provide aid and deliver cash to run needed operations. This is after international banks become “wary” of testing a system implemented by the UN called the Humanitarian Exchange Facility to bypass the Taliban leaders, who are under sanctions.
According to the International Rescue Committee, the Humanitarian Exchange Facility “would allow Afghan private sector companies to deposit their afghanis into banks for UN agencies and NGOs to access inside Afghanistan to pay for operational costs.” The process involves exchanging aid dollars worth millions of dollars for afghanis that will be used in supporting humanitarian operations and aiding the economic crises that the country is experiencing. Griffiths told the council,
“The formal banking system continues to block transfers due to excessive de-risking, impacting payment channels and causing breakdowns in supply chains.”
“We have seen limited progress because of resistance by the de-facto authorities. This is an issue that is not going to fix itself.”
Even after pledging to UN officials last September that they would not interfere, there has been increasing interference from Taliban authorities. They have been blocking transfers on pay channels, disrupting the supply chain, and preventing the funds from moving into the country. This interference leaves millions of people unable to receive emergency assistance.
“National and local authorities are increasingly seeking to play a role in the selection of beneficiaries and channeling assistance to people on their own priority lists, citing an almost universal level of need.”
6.1 Magnitude Earthquake Hit
The UNSC meeting was held after a magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit about 160 km southeast of Kabul, in a remote area near the Pakistan border. The earthquake that hit last June 22 killed 1,150 people, based on the latest update. Reports said that the lack of proper roads and strong communications made it difficult for the relief to reach the country with worsened conditions after the Taliban took charge. In a statement given by Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the top Taliban military commander in Paktika province, he said that “the rescue operation has finished; no one is trapped under (the) rubble.”
Apart from the 1,150 people killed, 1,600 more were injured, while 3,000 houses were destroyed.
When asked, two former officers in Nepal who were part of the rescue operation in the 2015 earthquake that killed 9,000 people said they were surprised at the quick speed of the rescue operation. Although, one of them noted that it was possible if the houses damaged were small.
First Major Challenge
The rescue operation after the earthquake was the first major challenge for the Taliban after they took over the country. Taliban soldiers and ambulances arrived at the town while a helicopter brought relief goods to those affected by the disaster and awaiting the much-needed supplies.
Despite the previous issues on Taliban forces seizing aid from organizations and taking credit, a senior official in Paktika province, Khan Mohammad Ahmad, assured that the international community is welcome to do the distributions and would not be hindered. They even offered help from “the Islamic Emirate,” as they now call Afghanistan.
UN reported they were already working on one of the largest humanitarian operations in the world, “where nearly 20 million people, roughly half the population, are going hungry. Therefore, sufficient personnel was already on the ground to be deployed immediately.”
UNICEF also reported sending mobile health and nutrition teams to aid those wounded. They also distributed supplies like hygiene necessities, including soap, towels, detergent, pads, clothes, shoes, blankets, water buckets, tarpaulins, and tents. “We stand in solidarity with the children and families affected during this difficult time.”
UN World Food Program (WFP) deputy country director in Afghanistan also said that the earthquake will add to the humanitarian needs that the Afghans endure daily and that they are “already facing an unprecedented crisis following decades of conflict, severe drought, and an economic downturn.”