Taliban want to help distribute aid that includes US funds

Taliban fighters march during a graduation ceremony after three months of military training in Herat, Afghanistan on Jan. 10, 2022. (AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
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Eltaf Najafizada Bloomberg News (TNS)

The Taliban want the international community to work with its government to distribute humanitarian aid flowing into Afghanistanamid plans by the U.S. to bypass the militant group and channel funds through United Nations agencies.

Acting Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salaam Hanafi proposed a committee to be set up to coordinate aid worth billions of dollars during a meeting on late Wednesday with UN representatives. The “existing capacities of the government should be used, and the process of aid distribution should be done transparently, without discrimination and in effective and impartial ways,” said the Talibanleader.

Hanafi’s comments came a day after the UN made its latest funding plea of a record $5 billion in aid that would reach more than half of the Afghanistan’s 40 million people to “address immediate and catastrophic levels of need.” The U.S. too had planned to give $308 million in aid to the country.

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The U.S. said last month it would bypass the Taliban and expand the ways humanitarian aid groups can help ease a rapidly worsening food crisis. The plan was to directly inject cash into Afghanistan’s economy that’s been in free fall since the group swept into power in August.

This is partly because the U.S. and the rest of the world haven’t recognized the Taliban government due to concerns over continued links with terrorism as well as human rights abuses. Some of the Taliban’s cabinet members, including Hanafi, are blacklisted by the U.S. and UN.

“Bypassing Taliban sounds like there’s no government in place in the country,” said Jawid Kohistani, an independent political analyst and former Afghan security official in Kabul. “For the Taliban, there’s no option but to accept and let the world do whatever it can, even without their coordination, to avert the humanitarian crisis through aid distribution.”

While Hanafi welcomed the UN’s funding plea for this year, he said humanitarian aid “is not a permanent solution for poverty.” The UN had earlier warned that millions of people in Afghanistan are facing acute hunger and a million children could die within a year.

Several top Taliban officials have blamed the U.S. for the crisis after Washington froze the country’s access its foreign reserves of around $9 billion after the militant group took power. Without hard currency reserves, the Taliban-led government is struggling to pay salaries and import basic goods.

For now, a trickle of UN-supervised financial aid is coming in. A fifth round of $32 million in physical cash arrived in capital KabulMonday, bringing the total contribution of foreign money to more than $100 million since the resumption of the aid flows, according to Da Afghanistan Bank, the country’s central bank.

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