The economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has worsened since the abrupt halt in foreign aid following the Taliban’s return to power last August. But while urgent international assistance is essential to prevent a catastrophe, addressing the country’s many other problems must remain a long-term task.
In this Big Picture, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths highlight three steps that the international community can take to avert disaster in Afghanistan without rewarding the Taliban. Lakhdar Brahimi, a former United Nations special representative in Afghanistan, argues that the UN is the one global actor that can help the country pull through, and emphasizes the need for an inclusive political settlement in order to ensure a stable, lasting peace.
But will such a dispensation emerge? Yale University’s Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg says that upholding a promise to respect women’s rights would show that the Taliban are serious about fostering economic development. But Annie Pforzheimer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that, while Afghanistan’s new rulers have clearly demonstrated their capacity for brutality, there are strong grounds for questioning their ability to govern.
For that reason, former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt argues that, despite the West’s bitter experience in Afghanistan, it would be both immoral and dangerous to abandon all efforts to establish more stable governance in fragile states and regions.