Initially, they all had grandiose plans to either exploit or squeeze into an unstable Afghanistan when the Taliban returned to power in Kabul on August 15, 2021. In less than two months, however, they have pulled back from this Asiatic cauldron, reminding themselves how it has sunk empires and superpowers.
History has taught them that the Afghans are at peace only when they are at war! It’s best to keep off.
Slowly, Afghanistan is fading out from the front pages. The reason, perhaps, is no one seems ready to burn fingers, once again, in this war-torn country. All nations are in the wait-and-watch mode, which, in geopolitics, means masterly inactivity, or keeping aloof the way Great Britain kept away from European power politics in the 18th and 19th centuries, and now doing the same, post-Brexit.
They have left Afghanistan to fend for themselves.
At least the suffering Syrians could migrate to Turkey, the Middle East, and the West. The Afghans cannot even do it. Their self-proclaimed local ‘messiah’, Pakistan, has tightly closed its borders; Pakistan’s own ‘messiah’, China, after initial fire and brimstone, has fallen silent due mainly to its own subtle power struggle within the Xi Jinping regime; the US-led West has already left the ‘graveyard of empires’ to its own fate; Iran is busy sorting out its mess with Washington, and India finds that no role in Afghanistan is better than any role—New Delhi, having already sunk over $3 billion between 2001 and 2020, will have to pay to play a role, with no guarantee that the footage will not be edited out!
So, after Syrians, the Afghans are the new global orphans. In the biting winter ahead, the hungry Afghans could die in large numbers as Islamist terror outfits engage in a do-or-die battle to outsmart one another. Afghanistan is facing a famine of both food and money, and the victorious Taliban find it difficult to make them eat guns and bombs.
Other countries are also keeping away. Any help offered to the country would go to the coffers of terrorists who will corner it. Kabul is already sitting on a volcano and a ‘civil war’—if that is the right word—is staring it in the face. Its mountains are killing fields, passes are mined, and plains grow largely opium and gunpowder.
In this ruthless power game, only the battle-hardened Islamists will survive in this terror-enrichment alchemy; all others will perish. Since they are ruling Kabul at present, the Taliban, and Afghan Pashtuns within its ranks, are likely to be ‘beneficiaries’ of this misfortune. By next spring and summer, the fiercest Taliban insurgents may target Tajikistan and Balochistan as a prelude to their next target: Xinjiang.
Luckily, if that happens, Pakistan will shield India as a buffer! For once, Islamabad’s claims that it is a ‘victim’ of terrorism will evoke sympathy!!
Some humanitarian organizations are concerned with this black hole-type implosion and the possibility of large-scale famine-deaths in Afghanistan in the coming winter. They do not want to send official aid to Afghanistan, as the Taliban regime remains globally unrecognized. The West, and others, want the Taliban to give ‘concession’ in return for opening the financial taps. For this, the Taliban will have to eliminate anti-West elements, like the Haqqani Network and the Islamic State-Khorasan, from within the Islamist regime.
Hunger is forcing desperate Afghans to sell their meagre belongings to buy food. Some global NGOs are preparing to fly in direct cash for the needy while avoiding officially financing the Taliban government, according to media reports.
Planning for the cash airlifts—and creating a cash lifeline—may materialize for a country facing a rapidly collapsing economy where money is short. This emergency funding, aimed at averting a cataclysmic humanitarian crisis in the face of drought and political upheaval, could mean American dollar bills flown into Kabul for distribution via banks in payments of less than USD 200 directly to the poor – with the expected Taliban’s blessings but without their involvement.
The food situation is so grim in this poor country that many Afghans are skipping meals to keep their children fed. The Taliban treasury has had no money since the departure of the U.S.-led forces, as many global donors robbed it of grants that financed 75 percent of public spending, according to the World Bank.
United Nations World Food Programme Director Mary-Ellen McGroarty has warned more than a third of Afghans–14 million out of a 40 million population–are facing hunger. The nation’s economy could collapse anytime in the face of a cash crisis.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed about 10 million Afghanis ($110,000) in cash via a local bank and intends to disburse more soon, media reported.
The WFP is considering flying in cash and distribute it directly to people to buy food. Else, the donors would fly cash to the Afghan banks on behalf of the UN to pay salaries to the UN and NOG staff.
Kabul’s financial crisis arose as its central bank, with assets of $9 billion frozen offshore, has burnt through much of its reserves at home.
But the intrepid Taliban have survived such crises for another day.
Now they are looking at 2022.