The main powers of the world face two realities in Afghanistan: the country is bled by decades of war and needs urgent humanitarian aid so as not to collapse completely; And any initiative in the territory depends on some leaders, the Taliban, against whom most of these countries have faced militarily and who do not share their vision of human rights.
This Sunday, the leaders of the G-20 they met virtually and behind closed doors to find ways to reconcile these two realities. The general agreement, expressed at the end of the meeting, was that of the importance of providing humanitarian aid to Afghans, at a time of economic crisis and with the deterioration caused by a drought. But the form and commitment to offer that assistance seemed uneven.
The European Union showed more urgency and determination to face the crisis, both in its financial commitment to the country and in its willingness to deal with the Taliban. “We have to do everything possible to avoid a humanitarian and socio-economic collapse in Afghanistan,” said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in a later statement. 40% of Afghanistan’s GDP currently comes from humanitarian aid, according to a World Bank analysis. Banks are out of cash, officials have been unpaid for months, prices skyrocket and humanitarian organizations warn of the risk of a mass exodus, which could have a major impact on Europe.
The meeting was hosted by Italy, which will also host the G20 in-person summit to be held in Rome in the last days of this month. Its Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, He acknowledged that cooperation with the Taliban will be necessary to tackle the situation. “It is very difficult to think how you can help the people of Afghanistan without involving the Taliban,” admitted Draghi. “But that doesn’t mean recognition,” he warned. Of the G-20 countries, only Saudi Arabia recognizes the Taliban regime.
The meeting was weakened by the absence of two great powers, China and Russia. Neither Xi Jinping nor Vladimir Putin appeared at the virtual meeting, in a sign that they are not convinced by the articulation of humanitarian aid proposed by the G-20 and could do it on their own.
Before the meeting, Beijing demanded that the economic sanctions against Afghanistan be lifted and that the billions of dollars of the country’s reserves that are blocked abroad be unblocked, especially in the US and the United Kingdom.
Washington, at the moment, does not plan to do so. Joe Biden participated in the meeting yesterday and did not announce any new humanitarian aid commitments to Afghanistan. At a donor conference organized by the UN last month, his Administration only offered an additional amount of 64 million dollars. US military spending in the past two decades in Afghanistan amounts to about $ 2.3 trillion.
In a statement after the G-20 meeting, in which the Taliban are never mentioned, the White House put more emphasis on the need to “maintain an intense focus on the counterterrorism efforts, including threats from the Islamic State-Khorasan, and ensuring the safe exit of foreigners and Afghans »who seek to leave the country.
On humanitarian aid, he assured that it should be delivered “directly to the Afghan people through independent international organizations” and recalled the importance of “promoting fundamental rights for all Afghans, including women, girls and members of minorities.”
Conversations in Doha
The G-20 meeting came just one day after the US and the Taliban held talks in Doha, Qatar, the first since the chaotic and tragic departure of US troops from Kabul in late August. Washington’s intention is for any humanitarian aid or collaboration with the Taliban to come conditional on commitments to fight terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan -something within the agreements signed by the Taliban with the Trump Administration that promoted the exit of the US-, to the facilities to continue the evacuation of the country -there are tens of thousands of Afghans and foreigners without doing so- and respect for human rights. According to the White House, the talks were “frank and professional” and the Taliban “will be judged on their actions, not their words.”