Can we separate economics and politics? The Taliban in Afghanistan seem to think so. The Taliban is a Sunni Islamist nationalist and pro-Pashtun movement founded in the early 1990s that ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 until October 2001. Their main goals are to drive out the foreigners and reestablish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Consequently, the regime has made extreme cultural and social changes in the country. The majority of these changes restrict citizens’ rights and freedoms, especially women’s. While many nations have condemned the regime, others, including Pakistan, back it. However, now more than ever, the Taliban is in urgent need of the international community, as the country needs aid to continue operating as it is on the verge of collapse.
Context: What is happening in Afghanistan?
One of the aspects of this economic crisis is the issue of migration. The Taliban’s regime has caused more Afghans to flee the country in hopes for a better life. Unfortunately, refugees have little to no rights because of departure restrictions imposed by the Taliban, such as insurmountable challenges in obtaining passports and visas. This forces them to smuggle their way into neighboring countries, which puts them at risk due to clashes with the law.
Moreover, violations of women’s rights due to the extremist ideologies that are justified by religious values contributed to the collapsing economy. For instance, in 2022, the Taliban administration sent a letter to international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) ordering them to prevent women from working until further notice. The spokesperson of the Ministry of Economy, Abdulrahman Habib, confirmed in a letter that women needed to be laid off due to their inappropriate use of hijabs. According to their interpretation of the Islamic dress code, women must follow strict dress code measures, wearing a niqab and an abaya at all times in public settings, garments that only leave their eyes uncovered. However, the ban on women stems from an inherently sexist administration, which minimizes the Taliban’s validity. The Taliban has a history of imposing oppressive rules on women and denying them basic rights, forcing them to stop working and stay home to do household tasks. Not only is this administrative decision inhumane, but it also has negative implications on the economy because it decreases human capital.
Moreover, the government has banned education for women in the country, further violating their rights and deepening the economic situation.
The need for aid
The extreme regulations imposed by the Taliban is driving away skilled workers in the public sector due to their incompatible ideologies. Some multinationals have also left the country for the same reason. As a result, the economy can experience a reduction in long-run growth. An article published by an international peace organization stated that “Aid flows represented 42.9% of the country’s GDP in 2020, and 75% of its public spending was funded by foreign grants.” This demonstrates how crucial foreign aid is to the stability of the Taliban. Additionally, the quote shows that Afghanistan’s economy is quite weak because it heavily relies on foreign aid due to inefficiencies in the labor market which result in lower production and GDP levels.
However, as of recently, foreign nations are rethinking their decisions to provide monetary assistance to Afghanistan. This is due to the Taliban’s policy changes mentioned above, which many have criticized as extreme and sexist. Last month, the regime requested more aid to the United Nations, which the secretary general rejected due to concerns with the inhumane and oppressive treatment of women in Afghanistan.
This is a classic example of how morals and politics clash. Since money implies power, the UN is attempting to restrict the Taliban regime’s extreme oppressive measures by denying the loan. If foreign countries continue to fund the Taliban during this time, it would imply that they diplomatically recognize the cruel actions imposed by the administration and ultimately suggest that they support the Taliban’s decisions. Moreover, providing monetary assistance would enable the unrecognized regime of the Taliban to solidify their totalitarian system. The Taliban hide behind claims that they are run by religion. However, even countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran have called out the country for denying women’s education. This is significant considering how theocratic the two countries’ regimes are. Therefore, the Taliban’s requests for the UN to prevent their religious ideologies from interfering with politics are unreasonable.
There are many repercussions for the lack of aid that the Taliban is receiving. For instance, the health care system in Afghanistan relies heavily on donations to the System Enhancement for Health Action in Transition Project for Afghanistan. The World Health Organization (WHO) warned the country of a “rapid decline” in public health conditions, including escalating rates of measles, diarrhea, and polio in children. Another consequence of discontinuing aid is an increase in violence and illegal activity. If the Taliban is not receiving monetary aid from the West, they will seek other methods of gaining money, like interacting with the opium market. According to an article published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Taliban administration has previously made deals with leaders of the opium market to generate money. Additionally, the article states that the administration in the East has a history of kidnapping innocent civilians for ransom as a means of financing their weapons and armies. These violent means of getting money may increase with the lack of financial aid that the West is providing.
By this point, the Taliban regime has gained complete control of Afghanistan, and they will not be willing to lose it, even if this means dragging the country to the verge of collapse. As time passes, the economy worsens, and more minorities, especially women, continue to suffer from the deprivation of their human rights. Personally, I believe it will require more than just limiting funding to the administration to generate change. The negative response from western organizations to the cry for economic collaboration may also have dangerous consequences, such as the possibility of the administration creating violent outbreaks and attacks on its people. It is important to peacefully manage this situation before it escalates.
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