U.N. says Taliban-led Afghanistan needs funds to avoid collapse

Deborah Lyons, the secretary-general’s special representative on Afghanistan. File   | Photo Credit: AFP

A U.N. envoy on Thursday urged the world to keep money flowing into Afghanistan despite concerns over the Taliban government, warning the country could otherwise suffer a historic breakdown.

Deborah Lyons, the secretary-general’s special representative on Afghanistan, called on the world at least to give a chance to the victorious Taliban as the Islamist insurgents turn to governance and confront a dire economic crisis.

“A modus vivendi must be found — and quickly — that allows money to flow to Afghanistan to prevent a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” Ms. Lyons told a Security Council meeting.

If not, the result would be “a severe economic downturn that could throw many more millions into poverty and hunger, may generate a massive wave of refugees from Afghanistan and indeed set Afghanistan back for generations.”

She warned that the new Afghan authorities cannot pay salaries and voiced alarm over a storm of crises including a plunging currency, sharply rising food and fuel prices, and a lack of cash at private banks.

Foreign donors led by the United States provided more than 75% of the public expenditure under Afghanistan’s 20-year Western-backed government — and quickly stopped payments as it crumbled last month amid a U.S. military withdrawal.

President Joe Biden’s administration has voiced openness on humanitarian aid but says that any direct economic lifeline, including unfreezing some $9.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets, will be contingent on Taliban actions.

Ms. Lyons, a former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan, agreed that “safeguards must be created to ensure that this money is spent where it needs to be spent and not misused by the de facto authorities.”

But she added: “The economy must be allowed to breathe for a few more months, giving the Taliban a chance to demonstrate flexibility and a genuine will to do things differently this time, notably from a human rights, gender and counterterrorism perspective.”

Ms. Lyons, however, said there were “credible allegations” that the Taliban has carried out reprisal killings of security forces despite promises of amnesty.

Echoing statements by Western powers, she voiced concern at the makeup of the Taliban caretaker government which includes no women and has senior ministers who are on UN watchlists over terrorism allegations.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2021 8:05:34 AM |

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