Time to help the Afghan people

It’s been a little more than 100 days since the embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan. I have to search pretty hard to find current information from Kabul or anywhere else in the country. The Taliban don’t exactly relish journalists of any ilk, much less those that publish articles that stray from the Taliban “party line.”

Nevertheless, I was able to participate last week in a BBC World live TV session, with journalists in Kabul, London, and myself in Park City, Utah. It was deeply insightful, even for one (me) who watches the Afghan scene closely.

I learned the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is appalling. With almost no cash flow into the country, workers are not paid. Many continue to work regardless, but time is short. Winter sets in hard in Afghanistan, and fuel, power, and food shortages are impacting everyone – except the Taliban leadership. Famine is coming this winter.

The US and other countries have frozen Afghan foreign reserves, reportedly some $8 Bil. We want to use these assets and any potential of foreign assistance to exact policy changes from the Taliban – a renewed role for women in politics and society, restart of female secondary education, curtailment of terrorist use of Afghan soil, curtailment of assassinations or prison for former Afghans who supported the previous government, the US and our allies, and many others issues. All of which I support.

The problem is this: if we don’t help the Afghan people now, as winter and famine combine to devastate the very people we fought to support for two decades, thousands – maybe tens of thousands – of Afghans will die.

I don’t want to give a dime much less a bag of rice to the Taliban, but we must find a way to provide food aid and heating fuels to the Afghan people NOW, and then get this assistance to them right away. Given the huge need and the lack of time to plan and deliver this aid, only the US and a few critical allies can stop the coming catastrophe. We can and should do so!

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