Afghanistan on verge of socio-economic collapse, E.U.'s top diplomat says

Afghanistan is facing a collapse of its economic and social system, which could turn into a humanitarian catastrophe, said the head of foreign affairs of the European Union on Sunday.

To avoid the worst-case scenario, the Taliban would have to meet conditions that would enable more international aid, wrote Josep Borrell in a blog post.

“Afghanistan is experiencing a serious humanitarian crisis and a threat of socio-economic collapse that would be dangerous for Afghans, the region and international security,” wrote Borrell.

Food prices in the country have risen more than 50 percent since the Taliban came to power in August as the freeze of $ 9 billion in Afghanistan’s assets held in foreign central bank reserves and the withdrawal of foreign income fuel inflation.

Taliban troops patrol Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday.JORGE SILVA / Reuters

The Afghan banking system is largely paralyzed, people are unable to withdraw money, while the country’s health system, which has depended heavily on foreign aid, is on the verge of collapse, according to Borrell.

“If the situation persists and winter approaches, it threatens a humanitarian catastrophe,” he wrote, adding that it could trigger mass migration to neighboring countries.

The 27-country EU has increased its humanitarian aid to Afghanistan since the Taliban came to power, but has stopped its development aid, which has also been done by other countries and the World Bank.

The EU’s response to the crisis will depend on the behavior of the new Afghan authorities, Borrell said, and any resumption of relations would require compliance with conditions, including human rights.

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“Above all, this requires that the Taliban take steps that enable the international community to help the Afghan people,” he said, adding that women workers in international organizations must be able to do their jobs.

Widespread reports of human rights abuses and the exclusion of girls from schools have tarnished optimism that the Taliban’s approach has changed since its first government in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

Borrell met with Qatari officials last week in the Qatari capital, Doha, where the Taliban are represented.

He said Qatar’s contacts with the Taliban were aimed at moderating their behavior and urged Doha to use its contacts with them to ensure that the “worst case scenario” for Afghanistan could be avoided.

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