The World Today for December 27, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

After the Fall

AFGHANISTAN

Two veteran foreign correspondents from the Washington Post recently journeyed along the 300-mile highway from the Afghan capital of Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar.

American taxpayers funded the road to the tune of $300 million. Today, four months after the US pulled out of the war-torn Central Asian country, National Highway 1 showcases the ongoing violence that still wracks the country, the toll of decades of fighting on infrastructure and the dim prospects for Afghanistan under the ultra-orthodox Islamic militants, the Taliban, who are now in charge there.

Peace is a long way off in Afghanistan.

The numbers of Al Qaeda extremists are growing, the Associated Press reported. Deadly blasts and fighting still occur throughout the country, as Al Jazeera noted. The Taliban recently gutted programs to help victims of gender-based violence, including releasing rapists and others from prison, Amnesty International added.

On Afghan television, suicide bombers are lionized as elite forces within the new national army. Three thousand have been deployed to defend the border with Tajikistan, for example.

“The Taliban’s passion for suicide bombing did not end with their military victory,” wrote Foreign Policy magazine. “Their love of suicide bombing seems to be taking a new turn, with Taliban officials publicly venerating the tactic and its agents in an apparent attempt to normalize it on a larger, societal scale.”

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Meanwhile, the Taliban continues to dismantle the pillars of democracy that were erected after the group fell out of power in 2001, the Associated Press reported. Over the weekend, the Taliban said it dissolved Afghanistan’s two election commissions as well as the state ministries for peace and parliamentarian affairs because they were “unnecessary.”

But perhaps more concerning is how the Afghan economy is in “free fall,” in the words of the United Nations. The healthcare system is crumbling, the Economist reported. Staff isn’t receiving paychecks. Medical supplies are dwindling. Millions are unemployed. The banking system is dysfunctional. Around 97 percent of the population is headed toward poverty as a cold winter approaches.

When the US pulled out, foreign donors did the same. The US has not yet unfrozen $9 billion in Afghan central bank reserves or lifted sanctions on Taliban leaders, either. As a result, the same leaders issued an international call for help to prevent people from starving this winter, Reuters explained.

Islamic leaders met in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, recently to discuss efforts to help, National Public Radio wrote. They were hoping to raise $4.5 billion, a sum that UN officials described as a stopgap measure.

Speaking at the meeting covered by Agence-France Presse, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his country especially has good reason to be concerned about an economic meltdown. In the event of mass famine, for example, many Afghans will likely seek out opportunities in Pakistan, as millions have done over the past decades. They will have nothing to lose.

Reports of how the US bungled the war in Afghanistan are now legion. But the Taliban might soon be choking on the ashes of their victory.

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