Last year, Americans watched as the Biden administration fulfilled its promise to finally withdraw from Afghanistan. It seemed like the impossible had happened, and our country’s longest war in history was actually coming to an end. Sure, there was controversy across the political spectrum in how Biden carried out this act and certain criticisms of Biden’s negligent withdrawal tactics were warranted, but overall there was a certain relief that accompanied ending a war, especially one that lasted twenty years.
However the question remains, did the US truly end this two-decade catastrophe, or simply continue it by other means?
MILLIONS OF AFGHANS FACE STARVATION
Unfortunately, despite the appearance of halted intervention, the US government continues to bloody its hands with the lives of Afghans.
American boots no longer remain on the ground, but devastating US economic sanctions have taken their place. The impact of these sanctions on the already highly impoverished nation are ruinous, and could reportedly result in the death of more Afghans this year than the number who died during twenty years of warfare. According to UNICEF, 22.8 million people now face acute food insecurity and that includes 5 million children under the age of five “at risk of dying due to severe acute malnutrition.”
In February, the President of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), who has a large staff in Afghanistan, gave testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and stated that, “the proximate cause of this starvation crisis is the international economic policy, which has been adopted since August and which has cut off financial flows not just to the public sector, but in the private sector in Afghanistan as well.”
The very sanctions which are meant to punish the Taliban, have instead frozen private sector activity, strangling the economy and Afghans alike. It’s a wonder how the US is the supposed arbiter of free markets in the world and yet enables policies which halt the very essence of free economic development in a country it was meant to help advance.
THEFT ON A MASSIVE SCALE
The most destructive sanction among many is Biden’s Executive Order which confiscated $7 billion in assets that Afghanistan’s Central Bank had on deposit in New York. This was done to deny the Taliban access to the funds. In turn, the Biden administration has decided to pursue giving $3.5 billion of the funds to the families of the victims of the September 11th attacks to use for debts from lawsuits they had brought against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Now might be a good time to remind everyone that the September 11th attacks were conducted by Al-Qaeda – who are mostly Saudi and Egyptian nationals – not the Taliban.
The other half of the wafty $7 billion in Afghan assets is meant to be put in a trust fund to be “used for the benefit of the Afghan people.”
Perhaps the most efficient way to help the Afghan people is not by effectively destroying what little remains of their formal economy, but instead, releasing their own funds to the Afghanistan Central Bank in order to resume at least some economic activity in the country. No amount of foreign aid can make up for a restricted banking system. If the US government was hell-bent on saving Afghans, the best they could do is step aside.
US POLICY IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
US sanctions in Afghanistan are meant to hinder the Taliban, who are now the de-facto government in Afghanistan, however in doing so, the US risks reviving the very same instability in Afghanistan that brought us there in the first place two decades ago. The destructive sanctions the West insists on implementing could very well result in a failed state.
Consequently, a failed Afghanistan state would likely become a hub for terrorist activity and recruitment, following suit similarly to that of the rise of the Islamic State in 2014. 50 members of Congress have actually given warning to Biden on this very subject. In a letter concerning economic collapse from US sanctions, they stated that this “could create ungoverned spaces, and enable resentment against the U.S., producing fertile ground for groups like ISIS to gain strength.”
Time and time again the US government reveals just how incorrigible they truly are, repeating the same failed policies that ultimately lead to the next problem they have to solve.
Woodrow Wilson infamously coined economic sanctions as a “peaceful, silent, deadly remedy” rather than an act of war. However, what’s happening in Afghanistan is a timely reminder that economic sanctions are anything but peaceful. Rather, they are yet another form of warfare– one that doesn’t just destroy armies, but cruelly and indiscriminately starves and targets whole civilian populations.
The bombing of Afghanistan has ended, the boots have left, but in its wake is a much quieter means of war, the hinderance of basic functions a nation needs to survive.
America’s war on Afghanistan is still far from over.