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What is in store for Afghanistan in 2022?

Shamil Shams | Masood Saifullah
December 23, 2021

The economy of the war-ravaged country has collapsed, and many Afghans are starving. The international community, however, doesn't want to strengthen the new rulers — the Taliban — by providing financial aid to them.

Afghans camping outside a government office in Herat province
The situation is deteriorating as Afghanistan suffers a drought, in addition to Taliban rule, which is exacerbating povertyImage: Petros Giannakouris/AP/dpa/picture alliance

On August 15, 2021, the Taliban ousted former President Ashraf Ghani's government and captured Kabul, without facing much resistance from the Afghan army.

The US and NATO had already withdrawn most of their forces from the country, hoping the Afghan forces would be able to keep the Islamist militants at bay. After all, the West had spent billions of dollars on training local forces.

As the Taliban flag was raised over the presidential palace in Kabul, the insurgents celebrated the "downfall" of an empire, vowing to usher in an era of independence and stability.

Four months later, the Taliban are making repeated requests to Washington to come to their aid. The country's economy has collapsed, and millions of people are on the verge of starvation.

Rising hunger and stalled aid deliveries are creating a "fast unraveling crisis" in Afghanistan, UNICEF warned in November.

"Around half of the country — 23 million people — are in need of aid, so the scale is extraordinary and it's a fast unraveling crisis to all," Samantha Mort, the chief of communications for UNICEF Afghanistan, told DW.

Taliban supporter Pakistan recently organized a summit of Islamic countries to raise funds for Afghanistan. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken lauded Islamabad's efforts to help Afghanistan, but didn't say what his country planned to do stabilize the Afghan economy.

Afghans are suffering

The situation in Afghanistan, which has been in turmoil since the Taliban takeover, is deteriorating even further as the country suffers a drought, forcing families to sell everything, including their own children.

Mohammad Ibrahim, a resident of Kabul, told DW that he had no other option than to offer his 7-year-old daughter, Jamila, for the debt his family owed. "A person came and told me to either pay the debt or 'I will burn your home to ashes,'" Ibrahim said. But he was offered the chance to "give up his daughter," in order to repay his debt.

"The man was a rich person," he said. "And I had no other option and I accepted to offer my child in return for 65,000 Afghanis (nearly €620, $700) of debt."

This is just a glimpse of the unfolding humanitarian crisis in a country that was backed by the US for two decades.

"2021 was an awful year for the Afghan economy, which heavily depended on foreign aid and the presence of foreign forces," Shirjan Ahmadzai, a US-based expert on Afghanistan, told DW. "Afghanistan's currency has lost its value, and the regime change in the country has brought more misery."

Maryam Sadat, a former parliamentarian, says that if the current situation persists, the common people will suffer more. "The economy will shrink further, and poverty will rise, unless the international community helps the Afghan people."

Deteriorating human rights

But the international community does not want to legitimize the Taliban regime.

Earlier this month, donors to the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) agreed to release $280 million (€247 million) in aid to Afghanistan.

But the money will go to two aid agencies — the World Food Programme (WFP) and children's agency UNICEF.

The Taliban leadership has repeatedly urged the international community to recognize its rule and release the country's assets frozen in foreign banks. The West, however, wants the Islamists to improve the human rights situation in the country.

"The latter half of 2021 was terrible for Afghans in terms of human rights," Shabnam Salihi, a former commissioner of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, told DW. "Afghans — and Afghan women in particular — have lost their basic rights."

"The situation will get worse in 2022 if things continue as they are," she added.

Aid first!

It appears that the Taliban are not ready to change their ways, but for how long can the international community ignore the plight of ordinary Afghans?

Zikruallah Zaki, a lecturer at Kabul University, says that Afghanistan was suffering even before the Taliban came to power in August. "This will continue for many years," he said.

Experts believe that while it is important to keep pressure on the Taliban, the West is duty-bound to do more for Afghans.

"Even countries that are close to the Taliban are not happy with the current situation. But the international community must deal with the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan first," Shukria Barakzai, a former Afghan parliamentarian, told DW.

"The people of Afghanistan are losing faith in the international community," she added.

Edited by: Srinivas Mazumdaru