Former generals and emissaries want the United States to rebuild the Afghan banking system

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WASHINGTON: Twelve former US generals and ambassadors have urged the Biden administration to help rebuild a banking system in Afghanistan to avoid a total collapse of the Afghan state.

“In addition to food and medicine, Afghanistan needs a stable medium of exchange and a functioning banking system to avoid widespread economic and governance failure,” they said in a message. joint published by an American think tank, the Atlantic Council.

Three of the signatories – Generals John Campbell, John Nicholson and David Petraeus – have commanded US and NATO forces in Afghanistan while two – Ryan Crocker and Richard Olson – have served as US ambassadors to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We believe that the United States has a reputational interest and a moral obligation to join vigorously in helping the Afghan people preserve at least some of the social and economic gains made over the past two decades,” they said. writing.

“We believe that ways to do this can be found, while erecting barriers so that aid is not diverted for purposes other than those for which it is intended.”

The signatories reminded the Biden administration that even under Taliban control, “Afghan civil society continues to exist, and it is important that the United States and other international donors continue to work with it.”

The United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other donors have also issued appeals, warning of the humanitarian catastrophe emerging with the impending collapse of the Afghan economy.

Shortly after August 15, when the Taliban seized Kabul, the United States and its key allies cut off foreign aid to Kabul and froze the currency reserves of Afghanistan under their control. This eliminated 40% of the country’s gross domestic product and 75% of the government’s budget.

Former US generals and diplomats have warned that the Afghan banking system is on the verge of collapse and the currency is rapidly losing value, adding that a prolonged drought, a raging Covid-19 pandemic and the disintegration government services had aggravated the situation.

They also cited recent UN reports, warning that “Afghanistan is on the brink of universal poverty, with up to 97% of the population at risk of falling below the poverty line by mid -2022”.

Their appeal also includes World Food Program estimates that “only 5% of Afghan households have enough food to eat each day.” The WFP predicts that Afghanistan “is on the verge of becoming the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world”.

The UN humanitarian chief laments that “the economy of Afghanistan is collapsing before our eyes”.

US generals and diplomats have reminded Washington that Afghan medical professionals, teachers and other essential workers must be paid if the most basic functions of the state are to be maintained. “Ordinary Afghans deserve access to their own funds, now frozen in banks that are wary of US and international sanctions and the potential collapse of the Afghan financial system,” they wrote.

Stressing the need to revive the Afghan banking system, they pointed out that Afghans abroad also needed financial mechanisms to send funds to their relatives, some of whom were being left behind by heavy US rules on who is eligible for the refugee and immigration status.

The Biden administration, however, remains reluctant to do anything to help the Taliban regime, but media reports say U.S. policymakers were considering various options to stabilize the Afghan currency and avoid the collapse of the banking system.

Former US officials argued that the Taliban takeover had disappointed them as well, but they believed that the United States had “a reputational interest and a moral obligation” to help the Afghan people preserve at least some of the social and economic gains made over the past twenty years. year.”

“We therefore recommend that the Biden administration, … in close coordination with key allies, come forward with concrete proposals to help stabilize the Afghan economy,” they wrote. “A delay will only fuel more death and suffering.”

Posted in Dawn, December 16, 2021

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