When the United States left Afghanistan in August it also froze almost all foreign aid to the country.
It has now come to light that the major part of the economy under the US military and its puppet government was completely dependent on that foreign aid, following the US invasion that destroyed the Afghan domestic economy.
The US also froze the US$9 billion reserves of the Afghan central bank held in US and other Western banks. That caused banks to fail across the country. The currency tumbled. The Afghan economy is in shambles.
As a result, according to UN agencies there is a looming humanitarian crisis, including the possible mass starvation of 23 million Afghans over winter.
This comes on top of hundreds of thousands of Afghans (the real number is not known) killed as a result of the US invasion, with more maimed and many scars left. International health officials estimate that two-thirds of Afghans suffer mental illness.
Washington, with full bipartisan support, is making the people of Afghanistan pay for its humiliating defeat in the 20-year-long war.
Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), recently travelled to Afghanistan’s displacement camps. He told DemocracyNow! on November 16 that the situation is critical.
“I sat down with the mothers in these displacement camps around Kabul. I asked them: ‘What about the future? What do you think of the future?’ They told me very clearly: ‘We believe we will starve and freeze to death this harsh winter unless there is an enormous aid operation coming through and unless there is a public sector again that is able to provide services.’
“It is as acute as that. Forty million civilians were left behind when the NATO countries went for the door in August.
“Seventy percent of teachers, nurses, doctors, water engineers, garbage collectors, public workers were on the payroll of Western development donors. That was cut overnight.
“I met teachers who were eager to restart girls’ education and boys' education [but cannot].
“We, Norwegian Refugee Council, cannot transfer money to our colleagues in Kabul through the local bank system, not even to get money there to pay salaries for our 2,000 aid workers that did not go out the door, who are there to stay and deliver — because of this freezing of the economy.
“Ninety percent of Afghan refugees — and there are many millions of them — accumulated over 40 years of fighting since the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan 40 years ago — are in two countries, Iran and Pakistan.
“They are not in Europe. They are not in North America. They are not in the rich countries. They are in these two neighbouring countries. In Iran where I was, refugees are getting education and healthcare and so on, but the Iranian host communities are not getting much international assistance at all [because of US sanctions against Iran].
“Now that 4000 or 5000 are coming over the border every single day, 320,000 since the Taliban took over, it means that the Afghan refugees in Iran are very afraid of the future because they think that the little they have has to be divided in even smaller portions for all of those coming over the border.
"There has to be an investment in hope inside Afghanistan but also in the two neighbouring countries."
The situation inside the health centres in Afghanistan is also critical. Patients have to buy their own medicine, gloves and syringes and hospitals are running out of medicines, fresh water, food and heating fuel.
According to DN!, the UN is warning that if urgent humanitarian assistance is not provided, more than a million children will die from malnutrition.
Egeland appealed to those countries refusing to provide aid because they don’t support the Taliban: “I would argue that nobody should want an implosion in Afghanistan where 40 million people say ‘I have no hope here. I need to leave.’
“Hundreds of thousands have now assembled at the Iranian-Afghan border on the Afghan side with the intent to get over. Iranian refugees I spoke to said, ‘All our relatives have started to wander.’ They want to come to Iran and they want to wander towards Europe.”
Iranian Red Crescent’s Hassan Esfandiar told Al Jazeera that, due to the sanctions against Iran, his organisation is not able to receive international donations. “So far, the Iran Red Crescent has tried to provide its own resources for the Afghan displaced populations who are approaching the border.”
Egeland said that in Iran, “We have between three-and-a-half and four million Afghan refugees at the moment … I think that has to sink in — and 4000 or 5000 more per day, and a very small international aid program.
“Again, the United Nations is there with UNHCR. They’re a refugee agency. NRC is there. We can do more. We need more funding. We also ask for more freedom of operation from the Iranian authorities so we can win this race against the winter on both sides of the border, inside Afghanistan but also in Iran and in Pakistan.
“It has to be understood that a lot is at stake. It is not a small catastrophe. It is 23 million people who have no more food. They will leave, and hope to get to Europe. I would go if I was in that situation. I would also wander to where I could get food for my children.
“The US should lead in the humanitarian relief operation. Unfreeze the assets that are necessary to get the public sector going.
“The World Bank sits on funds. When I wrote to the World Bank president, the answer back was, ‘Well, we’re willing to do things if the member states on our board, the US and others, tell us to release money. We can’t release money.’
“Also, enable us as organisations to really work effectively and efficiently on both sides of the border. Sanctions on Iran are making it difficult for us to work. The Norwegian Refugee Council couldn’t even transfer money for a full year after the [former president Donald] Trump administration started these sanctions.
“There was no bank with a backbone strong enough to transfer aid money to our people because they were so afraid of one day being brought to court in New York because of breaking these sanctions. It is paralysing for us who are on the front lines of humanity.”