From Pepe Escobar: He is a Brazilian journalist who writes a column, The Roving Eye, for Asia Times Online and is a commentator on Russia’s RT and Iran’s Press TV. He writes regularly for the Russian news channel Sputnik News and has previously written many opinion pieces for Al Jazeera.
Between the complex internal dynamics of the Taliban and the Western trick of conditional aid, it is the Muslim world that must act to save Afghanistan
Afghanistan was the focus of the 17th extraordinary meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers representing 57 countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
It was the job of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to deliver the keynote address at the session that was held on December 19 in the Parliament building in Islamabad.
And he set himself the task: “If the world doesn’t act, this will be the greatest man-made crisis that unfolds before our eyes.”
Imran Khan spoke not only to representatives of Islamic countries, but also to UN officials, the proverbial “global financial institutions”, numerous non-governmental organizations, a few bureaucrats from the USA, the EU and Japan and, above all, the Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi .
No nation or organization has officially recognized the Taliban as the new, legitimate Afghan government. And quite a few are frankly more interested in hosting an elaborate kabuki by pretending to be helping the Afghan economy, which has fallen to the ground after 20 years of US / NATO occupation, instead of actually coordinating the aid packages with Kabul.
The numbers are terrifying and barely show the full extent of the drama.
According to the UNDP, 22.8 million Afghan citizens – more than half of Afghanistan – are at risk of food shortages and soon acute hunger, while as many as 97 percent of Afghans could soon fall below the poverty line. In addition, the World Food Program indicates that 3.2 million Afghan children are at risk of acute malnutrition.
Imran Khan stressed that the OIC has a “religious duty” to help Afghanistan. He was adamant about the “hyperpower” that stunned the world with its humiliating retreat show after 20 years of occupation: Washington had to “decouple” its resentment against the Taliban government from the fate of the 40 million Afghan citizens.
Imran Khan has angered some Afghans, starting with former President Hamid Karzai when he stated that “the concept of human rights is different in every society,” referring to the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which borders Afghanistan.
“The culture in the city is completely different from the culture in the rural areas …” he said. “We give scholarships to the girls’ parents to send them to school. But if we in the districts on the border with Afghanistan do not take into account the cultural norms, they will not send them to school, even though they receive double the amount. We must be sensitive to human rights and the rights of women.
This has been interpreted in some quarters as Pakistani interference – part of a secret, underhanded strategic narrative. That is not completly correct. The Prime Minister uttered a fact as anyone familiar with the tribal areas knows. Even Afghan Foreign Minister Muttaqi said the Prime Minister’s words were not “offensive”.
Imran Khan also pointed out that there are already over three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. In addition, Islamabad is home to more than 200,000 refugees who have exceeded their visas. “You can’t go back. We are already suffering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are unable to cope with an influx of refugees ”.
Would you ever trust NATO?
And then there is the last nut to crack: the internal dynamics of the Taliban.
Diplomatic sources unofficially confirm that persuading different layers of the Taliban leadership to make some concessions is an ongoing struggle.
Talks with the NATO bloc are practically dead: without visible concessions on girls’ education, women’s rights and the heart of the matter – which everyone agrees on, including the Russians, the Chinese and the Central Asians – there will be none Giving help: a more inclusive government in Kabul.
So far, the Taliban pragmatists – led by the political office in Doha – have been left behind.
At the OIC meeting, at least practical proposals were made that involve Islamic development banks. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi insisted that Kabul must have access to banking services.
Here lies the crux of the problem: After the withdrawal of NATO, there are no solid banking channels. So it is technically impossible to transfer grants into the system and then distribute them to the hard-hit provinces. But this, too, is ultimately related to the grandiose humanitarian aid pledges made by the West, which are subject to conditions.
Finally, Qureshi and OIC General Secretary Hissein Brahim Taha announced that a “humanitarian trust fund” would be set up under the auspices of the Islamic Development Bank as soon as possible. The fund should be able to involve international partners, including non-politicized Westerners.
Qureshi showed his bravest face and stressed the need to forge a partnership between the OIC and the United Nations.
For his part, Taha was quite realistic. No funds have been pledged for this new OIC humanitarian operation.
As Qureshi mentioned, there is one thing that Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and other actors could help decisively: investing “in the people of Afghanistan, bilaterally or through the OIC, in areas such as education, health and technical and professional Qualifications for Afghan youth. “
So now it’s time to get down to business – and quickly. It is up to the OIC to take the lead in alleviating the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
The official statement calling on all OIC member states, Islamic financial institutions, donors and unnamed “international partners” to make pledges for the humanitarian trust fund for Afghanistan must go well beyond rhetorical flourishes.
At least it is almost certain that from now on it will be up to the Islamic countries to help Afghanistan decisively. A bitter, defeated, vengeful and inwardly corroded NATO simply cannot be trusted.
Nobody remembers today that over ten years ago the Empire hatched its own version of the New Silk Road, announced by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Chennai in July 2001.
It was not a question of a “community with a common future for humanity”, but rather a very narrow-minded obsession with the conquest of energy resources – in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – the “stabilization” of Afghanistan, ie maintaining the occupation and extraction India and the “isolation” of Iran.
The energy supply routes to the west should have run through the Caspian Sea and then via Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey – the three actors in the BTC pipeline – in order to bypass Russia, which was already portrayed as a “threat” in the west at that time.
All of this is now dead and buried – because after the occupation of Afghanistan, the five Central Asian “Stans” are again one of the main focal points of the strategic partnership between Russia and China: the heart of Greater Eurasia, which stretches from Shanghai in the east to St. Petersburg to the west.
To make this happen, the OIC must help Afghanistan just as the Taliban must help itself.