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Stepping Up Engagements

The European Union (EU) has softened its stand on Afghanistan, as the 28-member European Bloc has sanctioned EUR 1 billion (or USD 1.2 billion) as Humanitarian Aid for the war-ravaged South Asian Nation. However, the overall EU Developmental Aid still remains frozen.

Announcing the aid package last week, President of European Commission (EC) Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU wanted “to (help Afghanistan) avert a major humanitarian and socio-economic collapse“. She made the announcement during a virtual G20 Summit hosted by Italy. The Dutch official also said that out of the total amount, EUR 250 million would be given to some of Afghanistan’s neighbours, which accommodated the homeless Afghan refugees. Earlier, the G20 leaders discussed the Afghan financial crisis during the virtual meeting held on October 12. von der Leyen confirmed that US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined the meeting.

Ursula von der Leyen

Afghanistan virtually stopped receiving international aid after the Taliban seized power in Kabul. It has a direct negative impact on the poor and marginalised people. Earlier in 2021, the UN mentioned in a report that about half of the Afghan population (around 0.2 million people) are fully dependent on international aid.

At a UN meeting in Geneva in September 2021, it was stated that at least USD 600 million of emergency assistance would be required to deal with the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. UN Secretary General António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres assured the member countries that the amount would be used to implement a programme to be carried out by the World Food Programme (WFP). Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi also appealed to the UN for financial assistance to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.

António Guterres

It may be noted that the Taliban are not only seeking foreign assistance (to avoid a humanitarian disaster), but also global recognition. Meanwhile, the EC President made it clear that the EU would channel the funds to international organisations working on the ground, as the EU had no plan to recognise the Taliban’s Interim Government. “We have been clear about our conditions for any engagement with the Afghan authorities, including on the respect of Human Rights,” stressed von der Leyen.

Meanwhile, Qatar facilitated direct talks between the Taliban and the EU in Doha on October 12. Later, Mutlaq al-Qahtani, a Special Envoy to the Qatari Foreign Minister, said: “I think engaging with them (the Taliban) is the most important now. A priority as we speak now is the humanitarian (situation), is education, is free passage of people wishing to leave.” Interestingly, al-Qahtani, too, brushed aside the question of whether to recognise the Taliban-led Government in Kabul.

Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan

For her part, EU spokesperson Nabila Massrali expressed hope that the meeting would “allow the US and European side to address issues“, including Women’s Rights and preventing Afghanistan becoming a haven for terror groups. “This is an informal exchange at technical level. It does not constitute recognition of the Interim Government,” she added.

Geopolitical Experts are of the opinion that the Taliban badly need assistance as winter nears. Without international support, food prices are constantly rising in Afghanistan, and unemployment is spiking. As the EU is expecting a surge of Afghan asylum-seekers trying to enter the bloc (as happened in 2015 with Syrians fleeing the Civil War in their country), Brussels has decided to help stabilise Afghanistan by sending humanitarian aid in order to stem any such flow. At the same time, experts have opined that the West would not recognise the Taliban Government in Afghanistan in near future, as the terror outfit is still abusing basic Human Rights, especially Women’s Rights.

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