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It’s time we engaged with the Taliban

An Afghan woman and her daughter in Kabul. Scott Peterson/Getty

Having lost the war in Afghanistan, “Washington is now losing the peace”, says Larry Elliott in The Guardian. America’s “scorched-earth policy” response to humiliation at the hands of the Taliban is designed to cause maximum economic damage to some of the world’s poorest people. Joe Biden has frozen Afghan state assets held in US banks, halted payments from the World Bank’s Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund and blocked emergency Covid aid from the IMF. The result is that – apart from Taliban-controlled heroin exports – the economy has collapsed. That has left more than half of Afghans in dire need of humanitarian assistance and the poverty rate hovering around 90%.

The US is punishing Afghans in the misguided belief that refusing to do business with the Taliban is somehow upholding western values. “Letting children go hungry does not uphold western values.” And there is zero evidence that starving ordinary people is bringing regime change any closer. What it does ensure is mass unemployment and poverty: “the perfect conditions to breed terrorism and generate an exodus of refugees”. Of course, given the chaos in Afghanistan, it’s unavoidable that “large chunks” of aid money sent there would be squandered or stolen. But that’s true of all sorts of countries. For Biden to single out Afghans for this “brutal form of revenge” amounts to a humanitarian crime.

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