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Pakistan says Afghanistan ‘at brink of economic collapse’

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)
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi

Pakistan has warned that Afghanistan is “at the brink of an economic collapse,” urging the international community to urgently resume funding and send humanitarian assistance to the country.

“Today, Afghanistan stands at the brink of an economic collapse as the international funding dried up. It has become difficult to pay even salaries, let alone pursue development projects,” said Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in opening remarks at a Troika Plus meeting in Islamabad on Thursday.

He stressed that any further downward slide would “severely limit” the new Taliban government’s ability to run the war-ravaged country.

The so-called Troika Plus is composed of the United States, Russia, Chinas and Pakistan. The meeting, which was attended by the special envoys of the four countries, was the first formal session of the group since the Taliban assumed power in Afghanistan.

“The engagement with Afghanistan must not only continue but should be enhanced for multiple reasons,” Qureshi added in the meeting.

The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, took power again on August 15 as the US was in the middle of a chaotic troop withdrawal. The group announced the formation of a caretaker government on September 7. No country has yet recognized the group’s rule.

“It is, therefore, imperative for the international community to buttress provision of humanitarian assistance on an urgent basis,” Qureshi further said, emphasizing that part of this urgent move would be enabling Kabul to access funds frozen by Western donors since the Taliban’s takeover.

Afghanistan is facing what UN agencies have described as “one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.” Western countries have cut off their aid to the country since the Taliban laid siege to Kabul three months ago, pushing desperate people to the brink of starvation.

Experts believe that with winter knocking on the heels, the crisis is expected to deteriorate.

“Nobody wishes to see a relapse into civil war, no one wants an economic collapse that will spur instability; everyone wants terrorist elements operating inside Afghanistan to be tackled effectively and we all want to prevent a new refugee crisis,” Pakistan’s foreign minister further said.

His comments came as Afghanistan’s economy slumps due to the stall in most aid and restrictions on the banking system put in place by international governments.

The last formal meeting of the Troika Plus was held in the Qatari capital, Doha, four days before the Taliban seized power.

A day earlier, the Taliban’s Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi arrived in Pakistan. He also attended the meeting on Thursday.

The US completed its withdrawal in late August, in what observers saw as a botched exit after a futile military adventure that had lasted 20 years. The US-led NATO alliance invaded the South Asian country in 2001 under the pretext that the Taliban were harboring al-Qaeda.

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