Has the Weekly American Aid Led to Strengthening of the Taliban?
By: Ali Sajad Mawlaee
Since the collapse of the Republic and the re–emergence of the Taliban on August 15, 2021, the United States and the United Nations have transferred more than forty aid packages worth forty million dollars to Afghanistan. These packages are intended to provide immediate assistance to needy families and avert humanitarian disasters. The fall of the Republican government has caused the political, economic, and social order in Afghanistan to collapse. Statistics show that more than twenty–five million people are living below the poverty line, and the economic situation of Afghan citizens is deteriorating. Despite two billion and two hundred million dollars of humanitarian aid from the United States and the United Nations, the situation has not improved. If humanitarian aid is not invested in supporting citizens, what is its purpose?
Supporting the Taliban
It appears that international aid has inadvertently been used to support the Taliban government in Afghanistan, which has employed oppressive tactics against its opponents. Recently, the Ministry of Defense of the Taliban announced the design and distribution of new uniforms for its staff, while more than 90% of Afghan citizens lack food security. Additionally, the Taliban are attempting to build an army of 110,000 people, giving preference to those with prior experience. Regardless of how the Taliban execute this plan, the important issue is how they will acquire the necessary funds to implement it. The Taliban‘s economy is currently supported by the collection of hefty taxes from Afghan citizens and businessmen. Those who are subject to these taxes have complained, stating that various institutions and organizations under the control of the Taliban collect taxes from them under various pretexts.
On the other hand, these burdensome taxes have a direct impact on the stability and strengthening of the Taliban. According to documents published by the Ministry of Finance, the majority of taxes are allocated to the Ministry of Defense of this group. The second source of income is the drug trade; the Taliban are still making illegal money by selling drugs in the opium market in southern Afghanistan. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs has reported that Afghanistan produces 80% of the world‘s opium. The third source of income is the misuse of humanitarian aid donated to the country. For example, UNICEF and the World Health Organization are covering the expenses of the Ministry of Education and Health, and the Taliban have appointed people close to them to manage these funds. Consequently, a significant amount of money is going into the coffers of the Taliban group.
United Nations Expenses
The functioning of UNAMA (United Nations‘ Political and Peacebuilding Affairs) and other institutions affiliated with this body have been subject to much criticism over the past 19 months. This is due to their failure to meet their goals, as the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has not improved during this time, and they have instead played a role in strengthening the Taliban. As the Taliban have imposed various restrictions on women and all Afghan citizens, UNAMA has only responded by issuing a notice, and more recently, by banning female UN employees from going to work. This has led UNAMA to threaten the Taliban, demonstrating that UNAMA and the United Nations are more concerned with their own projects and work than with the welfare of the citizens of Afghanistan.
On the other hand, a significant amount of the donated money is deposited into the accounts of these institutions, which is largely spent on planning, strategizing, high salaries, and house and car expenses of the employees. Furthermore, numerous reports have revealed widespread embezzlement and corruption in the distribution of aid to those in need. Residents of certain regions of Afghanistan have voiced their grievances, accusing the responsible institutions of corruption and self–interest.
On the other hand, Taliban commanders have been implicated in the embezzlement and extortion of international aid. Reports suggest that the Taliban have seized aid for their own benefit or distributed it among their forces, with only a small portion reaching the intended recipients. This has resulted in a significant amount of aid being diverted to the pockets of the Taliban or to cover the costs of UNAMA and other United Nations affiliated organizations. Human Rights Watch‘s 2022 report noted that the human and economic situation of Afghan citizens had worsened compared to the previous year, with 90% of the population lacking adequate access to food and 79% living below the poverty line. Despite the implementation of United States and United Nations sanctions, the Taliban have continued to impose further restrictions on Afghan girls and women.
It can be concluded that the Taliban have breached human rights by misusing the aid provided by the United Nations and the United States. John Sopko, the Chief Inspector General of the United States Agency, has also suggested in his report that the United States should reconsider providing further aid and alter the humanitarian conditions.
The Political Dimension of the Story
The United States does not want the Taliban to fall into the arms of Russia, Iran, and China, and the $40 million aid has largely prevented this from happening. China‘s cash aid cannot exceed $100 million, while the United States gives more than $150 million to Afghanistan monthly. The countries of the region have security concerns, each trying to make a deal with the Taliban, but the Taliban are not dependent on these countries to a large extent, so they do not take these concerns seriously. China is concerned about the presence of Uyghurs and the East Turkestan Party in Afghanistan, and Central Asian countries and Russia are worried about the presence of ISIS, Ansarullah, and the Islamic Party of Uzbekistan in Afghanistan, as well as Iran‘s water issue and the security of its borders. However, none of these things are of concern to the United States. The presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan has caused many Islamic and fundamentalist groups to come together, which helps the United States in collecting information about these groups and monitoring their activities. This is beneficial to the United States as its global competitors are focused on fighting terrorism instead of confronting the United States.