US, NATO must fulfill obligations to Afghanistan
Global Times

Afghanistan Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

When global attention is focused on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, another geopolitical catastrophe, created by the US and its NATO allies is ignored.

After the US and NATO completed their hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the latter was trapped in an increasingly worsening humanitarian crisis.

As a close neighbor of Afghanistan, China has provided the country with nearly 300 million yuan ($47 million) in humanitarian assistance and has been preparing to host the third meeting of the foreign ministers of Afghanistan's neighbors. This meeting will give full play to the advantages of neighboring countries for the long-term stability of Afghanistan, and may urge the US and its allies to shoulder their responsibility for peace and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

After the drastic changes in Afghan politics in August of last year, the first meeting of the foreign ministers of Afghanistan's neighbor, including China, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, was held in September. It was a timely and significant initiative, which formally catalyzed coordination and cooperation mechanism among the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, and established the political consensus on jointly coping with the changing situation in Afghanistan. The meeting has highlighted the unique role and legitimate concerns of Afghanistan's neighbors.

Yet despite the efforts of Afghanistan's neighbors, the US and its allies cannot escape their responsibility of restoring peace and reconstructing the country after a 20-year war ended.

Reports show that as of mid-September 2021, 95 percent of Afghan households were without enough to eat. Afghanistan's banking system and currency have collapsed, and the war economy is on the verge of bankruptcy, resulting in mass unemployment and refugee exodus.

People in Afghanistan are struggling to withdraw money from their bank accounts. Companies lost their access to capital. Inflation soared. "We are on a countdown to catastrophe and if we don't act now, we will have a total disaster on our hands", said World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley in October.

After the political change in Afghanistan, the US froze $7 billion of assets the Afghan central bank kept in the US. In February, the Biden administration reportedly directed $3.5 billion into a trust fund for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan while putting the other $3.5 billion aside for families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US. At a time when Afghanistan suffers from political turmoil and starvation, the move by the US government was tantamount to robbing Afghan assets in broad daylight.

Afghan assets belong to the Afghan people. The US should immediately and unconditionally return the assets to the Afghan people to solve the increasingly severe humanitarian crisis in the country. Moreover, the US and its allies should increase assistance to Afghanistan without attaching political conditions, to help Afghanistan improve people's well-being, and activate Afghanistan's financial and commercial activities so that the US and its allies can earnestly fulfill their due responsibilities.

The US is the hidden hand behind the Afghan issue. But it has not set up any court or other legal mechanism to investigate and punish the US military.

As a good neighbor and sincere friend, China cares about the development of the situation in Afghanistan and has been proactively promoting Afghanistan's integration into regional peace and development. By December of last year, China had donated 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and a large number of anti-epidemic materials such as ventilators, masks and protective clothes to Afghanistan. After the political situation in Afghanistan changed, China accelerated the implementation of a series of aid projects, including those related to vaccines, food, winter supplies, medical supplies, and livelihood projects, which were delivered to Afghanistan through different channels, to help local people overcome the difficulties. By strengthening China-Afghanistan trade ties, China has brought hundreds of millions of dollars in income to Afghan farmers and merchants, which has helped Afghanistan improve people's livelihood with practical actions.

In the future, it is believed that China will continue to work with all stakeholders in Afghanistan's situation, including Afghanistan's neighboring countries, with effective multilateral mechanisms such as the foreign ministers' meetings to help Afghanistan in humanitarian assistance and economic reconstruction. At the same time, the US and its NATO allies should be urged to fulfill their due responsibilities and obligations, to return peace, development, stability and order to the Afghan people.

The author is head of the Department for Asia-Pacific Studies at China Institute of International Studies.