I was in Afghanistan – and saw the people Biden is taking money from now

With snow blanketing much of Afghanistan and young children wandering around without even a warm coat and unpunched shoes, the crisis the United States and its allies have walked away from is as horrifying as it is heartbreaking.

Millions of ordinary Afghans stayed there and supported American military personnel in a war that was not theirs because they believed in the American dream of a better life. If it wasn’t enough that they were abruptly dropped in the summer of 2021, they just received another unfair and humiliating blow.

Last week, President Joe Biden outlined a controversial plan to distribute about $7 billion in frozen Afghan central bank funds to the United States, signing a proposal to give beleaguered Afghans half that amount in humanitarian aid and distributing the remaining $3.5 billion. to the families of the victims of September 11.

This money comes from the $9.4 billion in Afghan aid, which was immediately halted when US-backed President Ghani silently abandoned the country on August 15 last year, opening the way to the capture of the presidential palace by the Taliban. All of this happened against the backdrop of a disorderly and disastrous US withdrawal after 20 years of war and occupation.

In light of financial suspension – and the fact that the country of 39 million people has been kept afloat thanks to an “artificial economy” created by the United States over the past two decades, in which the vast majority of the population was supported by foreign funding and US-supported government, military, NGO or contractor jobs that disappeared overnight – Afghanistan has now slipped into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis .

Under Biden’s order, the $3.5 billion will be placed in a trust fund for afflicted citizens, bypassing senior Taliban brass. However, the double has been set aside for the Afghan people, and it belongs to them, no matter who is in power. It is more important than ever for innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.

This is not to overlook the 9/11 families, who have legitimate legal claims against the Taliban, officially known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. These bereaved families have been seeking financial compensation through the US justice system for years, but there are alternatives that would not directly deprive desperate Afghans or force them to pay for crimes committed by others.

The fact that Afghans themselves were not directly involved in 9/11 is often lost in the war narrative. George W. Bush chose to invade the deeply impoverished country after Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar refused to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, largely because of the notion of ‘Pashtunwali’. », which places the protection of guests as paramount. Omar’s loyalty was also unwavering as Bin Laden was one of the few figures to back the otherwise completely pariah Taliban government, cut off from the international community.

Of the 19 hijackers involved in 9/11, 15 were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one was Egyptian and one was Lebanese. And while Washington was waging its war in Afghanistan, the Taliban were training, regrouping and residing primarily on the tribal terrain of Pakistan. Moreover, bin Laden was discovered and killed in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad almost a decade later. All of these countries combined receive more than $2 billion in US foreign aid annually. No one is talking about the 9/11 families who are tapping into this cake.

UNICEF’s World Food Program (WFP) now estimates that more than 23 million Afghans suffer from acute hunger. Nine million people are already starving. At least a million children are at risk of starvation due to the food, water and sanitation crisis, the United Nations warned last month. Ninety percent of Afghans already live below the poverty line.

As a journalist based in Afghanistan, I have personally heard families debate whether or not to sell their children as a financial means of survival. Helpless and heartbroken, I have watched families sell girls as young as nine to older men so they can receive bride price payment to put food on the table. I sat on cold hospital floors as mothers held their dying and severely malnourished newborn babies, while doctors kindly informed them that their supplies of medicine had run out.

(Jake Simkins)

For a country that claims to be at the forefront of human rights, where is the humanity? It was the Afghans who paid the ultimate price for a war that cost US$2.5 trillion, and now they are paying it all over again: at the hands of a US administration that has the power to help but who is trying to bury the mess.

I challenge my President to look into the eyes of a small Afghan child, covered in frost marks, with protruding bones from a delicate frame and hands cracked from daily toil in the dust when they should be home. school, and say they are not worthy of the appropriate amount of life support.

Afghans are all victims of this eternal war, just like those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. At the very least, let’s give them the dignity they deserve as survivors before they too become another bland statistic of the death toll. USA ripped the bandage off the gunshot wound last August when she left in such chaotic fashion. Our only option now is to try to stop some of the bleeding.

Elizabeth J. Harless