International community should stand by Afghan people, resettle refugees

The political crisis in Afghanistan is closely linked with the flow of refugees from the country. The latter cannot be contained without solving the former, writes Anirban Sen for South Asia Monitor 

Anirban Sen Sep 27, 2021
Afghan refugees

The present situation in Afghanistan is very serious at multiple levels. The Taliban control nearly the whole of the country and international forces have completely withdrawn. Before they left, the world witnessed the frantic process of evacuation from Kabul airport since the Taliban took over the city. A large number of foreigners, as well as Afghan nationals who worked with foreign troops or NGOs, were evacuated. On the other hand, many Afghans who were eligible for evacuation were left behind. This is even though these people had done all the legitimate paperwork.

Now many of these people are in hiding in Kabul and the rest of the country. Afghans have also been trying to cross the land borders the country has with Pakistan and Iran. This had started even before the US-led forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began withdrawing or the Taliban started their nationwide offensive to capture power which ultimately led them to take control of the capital. The migrations out of the country happened mainly because of the rising level of violence in Afghanistan.

The common Afghans, especially those populating the rural areas, were finding it especially difficult to survive in such an environment.

The previous US-backed government in Kabul was mostly non-existent in the areas where the insurgent activities carried out by the Taliban had been increasing rapidly. As a precursor to their eventual withdrawal, Instead of involving themselves in direct combat, the US-led international forces moved to advise and assist mode, expecting Afghan National Army personnel to take over as the main fighting force. But the Afghan national army had several inherent deficiencies which were overlooked both by the international community as well as the then government.

One of the main handicaps of not only the Afghan armed forces but also the Afghan government as a whole was the all-pervasive corruption. This resulted in the Afghan soldiers not having confidence in their higher-ups, let alone in the government. Thus these soldiers had no reason to fight for a corrupt and uncaring government and either meekly gave themselves up or fled when the Taliban finally overran their territory.

Refugee and humanitarian crisis

But the biggest concern for the international community should be the huge refugee and humanitarian crisis that has emerged out of Afghanistan. With the collapse of the Afghan government, critical foreign aid which was supposed to reach vulnerable Afghan communities has either stopped or is only trickling in. Since the Taliban are now in power it will be very difficult to send any kind of aid into Afghanistan without their cooperation.

Whether women’s and girl’s rights will be protected in the future in the country also remains unanswered. Most Afghans are now going through their daily lives not knowing whether they will survive the next day. Since the Taliban has not taken any steps to deal with the humanitarian crisis, the refugee flow has continued unabated.

Another major cause for concern in Afghanistan right now is that foreign funding for the Afghan government has greatly reduced. The Western governments are using this as leverage over the group, hoping that through this they can get assurances from the Taliban that they will protect human rights. But this is a false assumption because the people most affected by the collapse of the government in Afghanistan will be the common Afghans. The Taliban will just move on to other sources of funding. This includes narcotics and drug smuggling.

Other than this factor, countries like China and Russia will come in to fill up the void left by the withdrawal of Western financial backing. So this strategy will do more harm than good. Iran on the other hand has said that it will not recognize any government in Afghanistan which is not democratically elected.

Refugee resettlement

A major issue facing the world now is the question of the resettlement of Afghan refugees. This will be a complicated and long-drawn process. Many of the refugees who have been evacuated by flight from Afghanistan have been housed in temporary refugee shelters in Qatar and Germany. Many refugees have also entered the United States and other Western countries. But even these refugees have not been permanently resettled in these countries. A lot of paperwork needs to be completed before they feel completely safe in their new country.

Some refugees have left their family members or some other close acquaintances behind in Afghanistan. These people are rightly worried about the physical security of their loved ones back home.

As can be seen, the political crisis in Afghanistan is closely linked with the flow of refugees from the country. The latter cannot be contained without solving the former. The international community has to take a step-by-step approach to get through this crisis.

Each of the countries involved in Afghanistan has to take the responsibility to house some Afghan refugees, who must be integrated properly into the society wherever they are resettled. Refugees seeking asylum in desperate situations must not be turned back by any country under any circumstances. Vulnerable populations in Afghanistan like minorities and women must receive special attention in refugee programs.

On the question of giving recognition to the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the international community should monitor how they treat their people and whether they allow their soil to become a base for international terrorism again. If the Taliban return to their previous repressive policies which they followed in the 1990s, then the rest of the world must immediately boycott the regime. If, however, they expand the present interim administration to make it inclusive of some sort and work with the global community then that can be the basis of establishing some kind of working relationship with them. The big question that remains to be answered is whether and how this will happen.

(The writer is a Ph.D. Scholar, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at

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