EU top diplomat warns of socio-political breakdown in Afghanistan; humanitarian catastrophe feared

Afghanistan is staring at a breakdown of its economic and social systems, European Union (EU) Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said, warning the risk of the crisis turning into a "humanitarian catastrophe."

Oct 04, 2021
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Afghanistan (File)

Afghanistan is staring at a breakdown of its economic and social systems, European Union (EU) Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said, warning the risk of the crisis turning into a "humanitarian catastrophe." Avoiding the worst-case scenario, he said, would require the Taliban to comply with conditions that would enable more international assistance.

"Afghanistan is experiencing a serious humanitarian crisis and a socio-economic collapse is looming, which would be dangerous for Afghans, the region, and international security," Borrell wrote in a blog post.

Ignoring the warning by the international community, the Taliban, a Sunni Islamist group, seized power in Afghanistan on 15 August, toppling the US-backed Afghan government. The US and other western donors responded by blocking the Taliban’s access to the country’s reserves and aid.

The World Bank--whose support has been key to sustaining the country’s crucial health infrastructure--and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well suspended their assistance to the country. 

Since the Taliban takeover, food prices have soared over 50 percent amid the severe cash shortage in the country.

In his post, Borrell said the Afghan banking system is largely paralyzed, with people unable to withdraw money, while the country's health system - which was heavily dependent on foreign aid - is close to collapse.

"If the situation continues and with winter approaching, this risks turning into a humanitarian catastrophe," he wrote, adding that this could trigger mass migration into neighboring states.

The Taliban, despite facing a serious economic and governance crisis, remains intransigent to the concerns of the international community on honoring basic human rights, especially of women, and forming an inclusive government.

Furthermore, the group is accused of carrying out widespread killings of the people associated with the erstwhile government. Former employees of the Afghan intelligence service are being assassinated almost on daily basis. 

Although the EU has increased its humanitarian assistance, the situation remains precarious due to the blocked reserves and end to the development aid. 

Borrel also said the EU response to the crisis would depend on the behavior of the new Afghan authorities and “any resumption of relations would require compliance with conditions including human rights.” 

"This requires above all that the Taliban take the steps that will enable the international community to assist the Afghan people," he said, adding that female staff from international agencies must be able to do their job.

Last week, Borrell met Qatari officials where the Taliban maintains its political office.

(SAM)