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UN chief urges action to prevent economic collapse in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2021)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Saturday called on the international community to urgently inject some cash into Afghanistan, saying it would be disastrous if the country’s economy collapsed.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Guterres said currently “millions and millions of people (are) on the verge of dying because of hunger”.

Should the economy collapse, “it would be a total disaster; it would be lots of people dying and I believe a massive outflow into the neighboring countries with horrible consequences for the stability of those countries, so I think it’s very important to avoid that collapse.

“I’ve been saying that humanitarian aid is essential but at the same time it’s necessary, and of course there are ways to do so even in respect for international law, it’s essential to inject some cash to allow the Afghan economy to breathe and to avoid the kind of collapse that would have devastating consequences,” he said.

Guterres’ statement comes amid a cash flow crisis in Afghanistan. Essentially a dollarized nation under the former government, weekly shipments of US dollars stopped the day the Islamic Emirate took over Kabul – on August 15.

Since then, severe weekly limits have been imposed by banks on cash withdrawals for individuals, foreign reserves have been frozen, and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank also stopped loans.

Guterres said: “It’s our duty to do everything possible to support the Afghan people and to help create the conditions for those concerns that everybody has about terrorism, about human rights, about inclusivity, to materialize.”

He also stated that the “situation is unpredictable” but added the UN is working with the Islamic Emirate to allow for humanitarian aid to be distributed to the people.

He said that is would be a “disaster if terrorist organizations could operate again from Afghanistan.”

Guterres also noted that it was important for the Islamic Emirate to “understand the importance of an inclusive government that takes into account the diversity of the different groups [in the country]” and to respect basic human rights.

Asked about what he thought went wrong in Afghanistan, Guterres said the first problem was the “idea that the Afghan people can be ruled from outside.”

He said the British and the former Soviet Union had both tried to do this in the past, but both had failed.

The Afghan people are “very proud and they have lots of problems among themselves but they have even more problems with the idea that they can be dominated from the outside”, he said.

He also said he felt there had been too much “military action and not enough support to building institutions.”

According to him, the former Afghan leaders were divided – singling out the two past elections that had both been contested.

He said the election system adopted for Afghanistan “that was a unitary system was not the most adequate for a country that is so decentralized”.

“The truth is that there was a huge dysfunctionality in the government and we have seen it in relations of the president; and the international community looked at it without any capacity to really allow things to improve and so all these fragilities accumulated and in the end what we had, and we had it in a very chaotic way that nobody was forecasting.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen; as I said the situation is unpredictable but i think that there is at least a part of the leadership of the Taliban (Islamic Emirate) that would like to have Afghanistan as a country recognized by the international community and would be ready to pay a price for that,” he said.

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Bayat Foundation provides much needed food parcels to Balkh residents

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2021)

Hundreds of poverty-stricken families in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, were given food parcels on Sunday in a drive by the organization to help desperate families ahead of winter.

Committed to helping the hungry, Bayat Foundation has so far sent hundreds of packages that include rice, flour and oil, to the destitute in Kandahar, Herat and now Balkh.

According to foundation officials, they are working as fast as possible to provide the essential food items to people before winter sets in.

“The Bayat Foundation continues to provide assistance to the deserving and displaced people. We have already distributed aid to people in Kandahar and Herat and today we have distributed in Mazar-e-Sharif,” said Haji Mohammad Ismail, Deputy Chairman of the Bayat Foundation.

Bayat Foundation has carried out comprehensive assessments in these areas to identify recipients in urgent need of help.

“Based on the Bayat Foundation’s survey results, we are distributing foodstuff for really deserving people,” said Yafes Saqeb, Head of Bayat Foundation in Balkh.

Recipients of the food parcels welcomed the foundation’s initiative and said a large percentage of local families are facing serious financial problems.

“People don’t have food. We welcome their assistance and want them to continue their help,” said Abdul Ghafar, a resident.

“In this dangerous time that people are living in, hungry, we really welcome the assistance. We want them to continue with this assistance,” said Mohammad Baqer, another resident.

“There is no work. Women have problems, and can’t leave [their homes]. We are grateful to them and hope they carry on helping us,” said Shakela, another resident.
Bayat Foundation officials have said they will continue to provide food parcels and hope to reach as many people across the country.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghan families are desperate amid a looming humanitarian crisis following the abrupt end to foreign financial aid and the freezing of Afghanistan’s assets by the US.

Families have been hit hard by the unexpected withdrawal of foreign organizations, diplomatic missions as well as the withdrawal of US troops.

Together these entities employed hundreds of thousands of people both directly and indirectly – people who now have no income. In addition to this, the 300,000 former security force members, who were paid by the US, are also now unemployed and penniless.

Afghanistan’s winters are particularly harsh, and given the collapsing economy, Afghans are extremely worried about what lies ahead.

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MoD to form a new, independent national army

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2021)

Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) officials said Saturday that they will establish a new army that is independent in order to defend Afghanistan’s territory and airspace.

Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, acting minister of defense and son of Mullah Mohammad Omar, founder of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), said in a voice clip on Sunday that efforts are being made to safeguard Afghanistan’s territory and airspace.

“We intend to create a national and independent army under MoD to defend the country with high values. We will attempt to equip the IEA army with modern weapons. The army should have ground and airspace capabilities,” said Mullah Yaqoob.

The acting minister assured the international community and countries in the region that no one will be allowed to use Afghanistan terrority to carry out attacks against them.

“Countries in the world know that an army is impossible without foreign assistance. The world should help Afghanistan in this regard,” said Mohammad Sarwar Naizai, a military analyst.

The caretaker minister did not however provide further details about how the IEA will finance the army or whether it will include soldiers from the former government.

The previous Western-backed government paid the salaries of the then soldiers with money from the United States. On August 15, when former president Ashraf Ghani and all his top officials fled the country, the US and NATO-trained army and airforce disintegrated within hours.

The same day, IEA forces rolled into Kabul and took over as the new rulers. However, the foreign donor community and the US immediately cut off financial aid to Afghanistan and froze all the central bank’s foreign reserves – cutting off salaries to hundreds of thousands of former soldiers and government workers.

Some IEA officials meanwhile said that former government soldiers will be brought back into the army.

“We have left the way open for those people who were in security institutions in the former government. Some of them have returned already,” said Qari Saeed Khosti, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior Affairs.

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Pakistan denies reports it struck deal with US on Afghanistan operations

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2021)

Pakistan’s foreign ministry denied a media report which claimed that the two countries are “nearing a formalised agreement” to give Washington access to Pakistan’s airspace for operations in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has denied it struck a deal to allow the US to use its airspace for military and intelligence operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

“No such understanding is in place,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Asim Iftikhar said in a statement on Saturday in response to media reports.

“Pakistan and the US have longstanding cooperation on regional security and counterterrorism and the two sides remain engaged in regular consultations.”

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said earlier this year that “there is no way we are going to allow any bases, any sort of action from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan. Absolutely not.”

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