David Miliband and Christoph Heusgen on talks with the Taliban


In Afghanistan, the world sees a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding. Millions of people are starving, children are dying. The ruling Taliban are asking for international help, but are barely responding to calls for fundamental rights to be respected. What should the international community do?

DAVID MILIBAND: The answer is actually quite simple: We are not facing a political problem in Afghanistan, but an economic one, which is the result of misguided politics. It is not the Taliban who need our support, but the Afghan people who are desperately asking for help. Why can’t we differentiate between differences with the Taliban and our relationship with the Afghan people? The sanctions and the freeze on foreign assets punish the Afghan people for our differences with the Taliban. In doing so, the Americans have also broken their promise that the military withdrawal from Afghanistan should not mean an economic withdrawal.

You ask why 22 million people depend on the World Food Program and nine million people suffer from hunger? This is easy to explain: it is because the public sector has stopped paying salaries and the banking sector has stopped working, which is why the private sector cannot work. As a result, the entire economy is frozen. The UN says 97 percent of Afghans will live in poverty this year. More help is not the answer, only systematic help in a functioning economy.

So you would have no problem dealing with the Taliban, who trample human rights and include wanted terrorists?

Since 2013, David Miliband has headed the aid organization International Rescue Committee (IRC) in New York, which Albert Einstein founded in 1933 in American exile.  Miliband was British Foreign Secretary from 2007 to 2010.


Since 2013, David Miliband has headed the aid organization International Rescue Committee (IRC) in New York, which Albert Einstein founded in 1933 in American exile. Miliband was British Foreign Secretary from 2007 to 2010.
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Image: IRC

MILIBAND: That’s another question. My point is that when Germany or the United States pays a teacher, they get involved with the teacher and not with the Taliban. The fact that the Afghan economy was frozen does not primarily affect the Taliban, but the people of Afghanistan.


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