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Afghanistan and the sanctions model against Iraq 

Young evacuees from Afghanistan look on at the US military's Ramstein air base on October 09, 2021 in Ramstein, Germany [Lukas Schulze/Getty Images]
Young evacuees from Afghanistan look on at the US military's Ramstein air base on October 09, 2021 in Ramstein, Germany [Lukas Schulze/Getty Images]

There are similarities between the reality of Afghanistan and the Taliban, which emerged victorious in its confrontation with an international coalition led by America, and the situation of Iraq after the 1980-1988 war with Iran. After the Taliban victory, the US imposed sanctions on the new regime in Kabul in revenge for what it was unable to achieve militarily. It also froze $10 billion held in US banks. This is the real reason for the economic crisis and its serious humanitarian consequences on Afghanistan and its people, many of whom face starvation this winter.

When the then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait in 1990, the US imposed sanctions four days later. Although ostensibly targeting Saddam, they affected the Iraqi people more than his regime. These sanctions were in force until the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq to get rid of the Iraqi dictator.

That objective was achieved, but the power vacuum has been filled by Iran and its proxies. This is what will happen in Afghanistan as well if the US maintains its sanctions and economic war against the Taliban. India may also step in.

US withdraws from Afghanistan, where is this heading to...- Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

US withdraws from Afghanistan, where is this heading to…- Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The impact of the economic situation, according to international, US and Afghan indicators, is terrifying. The World Health Organisation says that at least 3.2 million Afghan children are malnourished. By the end of the year, one million of them will be on the brink of death. People in towns and cities across Afghanistan are putting their furniture on the street in the hope that they can sell it and make some money. Doctors and nurses have not received their salaries for months — a tangible result of the US freezing the Afghan government's assets — but even with the Taliban's recent raising of the limit for withdrawals from local banks from $200 to $400 per month, the crisis is getting worse. The results may be catastrophic.

There are thousands of Afghans waiting on the borders with Iran and Pakistan in the hope that they will be able to obtain refuge from the grinding poverty of the economic reality in their own country. They come from all backgrounds, so Afghanistan is losing valuable human resources and facing a shortage of people across the economic spectrum. The complete collapse of the economy is a real possibility, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

During the two decades of the US occupation of Afghanistan, the economy was based on war and militarisation, with international aid accounting for 45 per cent of the gross national product. Indeed, the government depended on international aid for 75 per cent of its budget.

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Such aid was targeted towards the health and education sectors, but post-US withdrawal from Afghanistan, this has not been forthcoming. The Taliban has appealed to China, Pakistan, and Turkey to fill the budget shortfall, but none of them has responded to the regime's pleas.

The IMF has said that the Afghan economy will shrink by 30 per cent this year, while the UN estimates that more than 97 per cent of the population is living below the poverty line. The repercussions of this will affect not only Afghanistan but also regional and international countries. We can't say that we haven't been warned.

This article first appeared in Arabi21 on 29 November 2021

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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AfghanistanArticleAsia & AmericasIraqMiddle EastOpinionUS
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