UN official warns of conflict and more poverty in Afghanistan
Markus Potzel, the UN deputy representative for Afghanistan, told the Security Council that some of the Taliban’s “claimed and acknowledged achievements” are also eroding.
He pointed to a steady increase in armed clashes, criminal activity and high-profile terrorist attacks, particularly by the extremist group Islamic State which has demonstrated in recent months that it can assassinate figures close to the Taliban, attack foreign embassies, fire rockets into neighboring Afghanistan – and continue their long-running campaign against Shia Muslims and ethnic minorities.
Potzel said the economic situation “also remains precarious,” with food security deteriorating and winter approaching.
The UN’s humanitarian appeal for $4.4 billion has only received $1.9 billion, which is “alarming”, he said, urging donors to provide $614 million immediately. dollars to support winter preparations and an additional $154 million to pre-position essential supplies before locations are cut off by winter conditions.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said in late August that more than half of Afghanistan’s population – some 24 million people – needed help and nearly 19 million were facing acute levels of illness. food insecurity. And “we fear” the numbers will soon worsen as wintry conditions will send already high fuel and food prices skyrocketing, he said.
While there have been positive developments in Afghanistan in recent months, Potzel said, they have been too few, too slow, “and are outweighed by the negatives,” in particular, the continued ban on secondary education for girls – unique in the world – and growing restrictions on women’s rights.
When the Taliban first ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, women and girls were subject to crushing restrictions – no education, no participation in public life and women were required to wear the burqa universal.
After the ousting of the Taliban by US forces in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks in the United States, and for the next 20 years, Afghan girls were not only enrolled in school, but in university, and many women have become doctors, lawyers, judges, members of parliament and business owners, traveling without face coverings.
After the Taliban invaded the capital on August 15, 2021, as US and NATO forces were in the final stages of their chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years, they promised a more moderate form of Islamic rule, in particular by allowing women to continue their studies and work. outside the house.
They initially announced no dress code, although they also vowed to enforce Sharia, or Islamic law. But the Taliban’s hardliners have since backtracked on their harsh former rule, confirming the worst fears of human rights activists and further complicating the Taliban’s relationship with an already wary international community.
Potzel said that in UN talks with Taliban officials, leaders say the decision was made and stands by the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, “supported by hardliners around from him, but questioned by most of the other members of the movement who are either unable or unwilling to change course.
The result, he said, is that women and girls are relegated to their homes, disenfranchised, and “Afghanistan as a whole is denied the benefit of the important contributions that women and girls have to offer”.
“If the Taliban fails to meet the needs of all elements of Afghan society and constructively engage in the very limited window of opportunity with the international community, it is unclear what will happen next,” Potzel said.
“Fragmentation, isolation, poverty and internal conflict are scenarios, leading to potential mass migration and a domestic environment conducive to terrorist organizations, as well as greater misery for the Afghan people,” he said. he declared.