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Intl. community, Taliban must reconcile to restore stability in Afghanistan: UN refugee chief

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People from Afghanistan walk with their belongings as they cross into Pakistan at the 'Friendship Gate' crossing point, in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan, September 7, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

The UN refugee chief has urged the international community and the Taliban to come to a common ground to help restore the desperately-needed stability in Afghanistan and to prevent a humanitarian crisis there.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who ended his three-day visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday, called for urgent and sustained support for people inside the country and for those Afghans who have already fled abroad.

“It's urgent. This is not one of those developmental issues that one can discuss for five years before coming to a conclusion, but it will require compromises on the part of everybody,” he said, adding, “I think that the international community will have to adapt some of its more stringent rules about working with governments ... and the Taliban will have to make compromises as well.”

The government of Afghanistan collapsed on August 15 and president Ashraf Ghani fled the country in the face of the lightning advances of the Taliban militant group that followed US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw the American troops in a disastrous pullout.

On September 7, the Taliban announced the formation of a caretaker government in Afghanistan, where hunger and poverty significantly increased during the past month.

Even before the Taliban’s takeover of the country, over 18 million Afghans required urgent humanitarian assistance. The persisting conflict and violence also internally displaced more than 3.5 million people, including some 630,000 uprooted during 2021.

“The international community will have to balance pragmatism, the need to keep Afghanistan stable and viable, and the political considerations that that would mean supporting a government led by the Taliban,” Grandi further said, warning that the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan “remains desperate.”

The UN refugee chief also warned that if public services and the economy collapsed, even greater suffering, instability, and displacement would occur both within and outside Afghanistan.

“The international community must therefore engage with Afghanistan – and quickly – in order to prevent a much bigger humanitarian crisis that will have not only regional, but global implications,” the UN refugee chief stressed.

During his visit, Grandi also met with newly-appointed Taliban ministers.

“I welcomed their commitments to provide security and enable humanitarian access throughout the country. They recognized the needs and thanked the UN for providing help to Afghans,” he said.

On Monday, international donors pledged more than $1billion in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to address hunger and poverty.

The pledges were made at a UN conference in Geneva as the world body has warned of a looming humanitarian crisis in the South Asian country. China and Russia said the main burden of helping Afghanistan out of crisis should lie with Western countries.

Around $200 million of the new money is earmarked for the World Food Programme (WFP), which found that 93 percent of the 1,600 Afghans it surveyed in August and September were not getting enough to eat.

The WFP has already warned that over 14 million people - out of Afghanistan’s 40 million-strong population - could be pushed to the brink of starvation if they do not receive immediate aid.

“Pakistan and Iran have generously hosted Afghan refugees for more than 40 years. Now, perhaps more than ever, the international community needs to do more to provide humanitarian and development support to these refugees and their host communities, and to scale up the resettlement of Afghans already in those countries,” Grandi further noted.

The Taliban first ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 until the United States invaded the country and toppled the Taliban-run government in 2001 on the pretext of fighting terrorism following the September 11 attacks in the US.

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