SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 22 September 2021, Wednesday |

Donors pledge $1 billion for Afghanistan

Donors have pledged more than a billion dollars to help Afghanistan, where poverty and hunger have spiralled since the Islamist Taliban took power, and foreign aid has dried up, raising the spectre of a mass exodus.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was impossible to say how much of the money had been promised in response to an emergency U.N. appeal for $606 million to meet the most pressing needs of a country in crisis.

After decades of war and suffering, Afghans are facing “perhaps their most perilous hour”, he said in his opening remarks to a donor conference in Geneva.

“The people of Afghanistan are facing the collapse of an entire country — all at once.”

He said food supplies could run out by the end of this month, and the World Food Programme said 14 million people were on the brink of starvation.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan according to their strict interpretation of Islamic law from 1996-2001 and were toppled in an invasion led by the United States, which accused them of sheltering militants behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

They swept back to power last month in a lightning advance as the last U.S.-led NATO troops pulled out and the forces of the Western-backed government melted away.

With billions of dollars of aid flows abruptly ending due to Western antipathy and distrusttowards the Taliban, several speakers in Geneva said donors had a “moral obligation” to keep helping Afghans after a 20-year engagement.

Neighbours China and Pakistan have already offered help.

HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS

But U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, also in Geneva, underlinedthe Western misgivings. She accused the Taliban of breaking recent promises by once more ordering women to stay at home rather than go to work, keeping teenage girls out of school, and persecuting former opponents.

Beijing announced last week it would send $31 million worth of food and health supplies. Iran said it had dispatched an air cargo of humanitarian aid.

Pakistan sent supplies such as cooking oil and medicine, and called for the unfreezing of Afghan assets held abroad.