Afghanistan is ready to work with the US, but sanctions must go
Afghanistan’s new leaders believe in dialogue and an exchange of ideas. But it takes two hands to clap.
A year and a half after the developments of August 15, 2021, when the Islamic Emirate regained control of Afghanistan, the situation in the country remains extremely hopeful.
The security situation has improved significantly. Violence levels have dropped sharply over the past 18 months and continue to reach new lows, despite doomsday predictions from critics of the new government in Kabul.
Even in the hotel lobbies of Doha during negotiations, many diplomats had harped on about the possibility of another destructive civil war, unless their demands were met. But the leaders of the Islamic Emirate took this contingency into account and enacted measures to avoid such an outcome.
While gaining control of the entire country, we took steps to weaken the possibility of a renewed war, by answering the concerns of Afghans and adopting the humane Islamic message of general amnesty and brotherhood.
Today, not only has the war come to an end but Afghanistan is being administered by an independent, powerful, united, central and responsible government. This is a first for Afghanistan in more than four decades.
The government has taken steps to disentangle Afghanistan from the crippling reliance on foreign aid – which defined the political setup of the past decades. Not only that, we are “Afghanising” all sectors, making them more accountable to the needs of the local population, and with a focus on capacity building and sustainability. This gives strength to our feeling of ownership of our own territory.
At the same time, we also understand that the globalised nature of modern relations means that all state actors must learn to live in harmony and peace with one another. Such relations should be founded on the immutable principles of equality, mutual respect and cooperation through the pursuit of shared interests. Bearing this in mind, the current government of Afghanistan once again extends its hand of positive engagement to the world.
We think a unique opportunity has emerged to embark on rapprochement between Afghanistan and the world. Domestically, the unity and cohesion of Afghan society are stronger than ever before. We celebrate, and take pride, in our diversity and rich history. We don’t believe in imposing the majority’s will on a minority. In our view, every citizen of the country is an inseparable part of the collective whole.
The conditions are ripe for Afghanistan to rise up as a responsible and independent member of the international community and to fulfil its responsibility in promoting global peace and security. The international community, on its part, should reciprocate by welcoming Afghanistan into its fold while paying respect to its independence and assisting it to stand on its feet. Our foreign policy will be based on a balanced and independent approach, that avoids entanglement in global and regional rivalries. We will pursue opportunities for shared interests and peaceful coexistence, based on the principle of equality and respect.
As for our internal affairs, which have at times been misconceived or misconstrued, there remains the need to dispel misinformation and depict an accurate picture of the values and needs of Afghanistan. The religious and cultural sensibilities of our society require a cautious approach. Any government that has not maintained the proper equilibrium, pertaining to such sensibilities, has ultimately faced serious difficulties. This is a lesson that our recent history has emphasised over and over again.
We believe in dialogue and an exchange of ideas, in an atmosphere free from political or economic pressures, and aimed at finding practical solutions and dispelling misunderstandings. Past experiences show that weaponising human suffering does not bear fruit. Alleviating the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is our joint moral responsibility. Seeking to obtain political concessions by perpetuating mass suffering is neither civilised nor morally justifiable.
The primary cause of the ongoing economic crisis is the imposition of sanctions and banking restrictions by the United States. This impedes and delays our efforts to address the humanitarian crisis. The only path that respects the dignity of the Afghan people requires the lifting of sanctions and other commercial restrictions on the country. Space should be created to nurture the spirit and initiative of the Afghan people. Moreover, the US should unfreeze Afghanistan’s frozen assets, and in line with the Doha agreement, lift all sanctions. What moral and political justifications can the US have for imposing crippling sanctions on a war-torn nation?
We remind the US and others that sanctions and pressures do not resolve differences. Only mutual trust does. Afghanistan has a history of failed states and collapsed governments. Not even global powers and grand alliances were able to prevent this.
What would be the consequence of weakening this government? Surely, such a scenario will be accompanied by a great human tragedy that will not be limited to Afghanistan, but rather usher in new and unforeseen security, refugee, economic, health and other challenges for our neighbours, the region and the world.
The bitter reality is that over the past two decades, the Afghan economy was made wholly dependent on foreign aid, almost to the point of addiction. With the screeching halt of foreign aid, there is now a need to address the basic and fundamental needs of the Afghan people.
We recommend that aid should prioritise the creation of jobs and the completion of infrastructural projects with a durable impact. Simply handing out bags of money will not result in sustainable livelihoods for millions of people unless the domestic economy is revived.
The first prerequisite for that is the removal of sanctions, to pave way for the private sector to be revitalised. All obstacles to transnational trade, extraction of natural resources, and the implementation of national mega projects should be removed. We, on our part, remain committed to ensuring a conducive environment and to working with all states based on our shared interests. A self-reliant Afghanistan is in the interest of everyone while a failed Afghanistan jeopardises all.
There is a need for the international community to establish political and economic relations with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, while respecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We have made important progress in the past year and a half. This, despite the fact that we inherited a collapsed narco-state, with an emptied treasury, unpaid bills, millions of drug addicts, rampant corruption, universal poverty and unemployment and a stagnant economy.
We established a professional security force, maintained nationwide security and ensured that no one uses the territory of Afghanistan against other countries. We have completely banned the cultivation of drugs. We welcome those that remain sceptical to visit Afghanistan and witness these undeniable facts up close.
Similarly, for the first time in decades, an Afghan government procured its budget entirely from domestic revenues. In the past, over two-thirds of the government budget was comprised of foreign grants. Moreover, the government has nationalised economic institutions, ensuring that these institutions serve their domestic mandates. In January, the World Bank’s latest report reflected these advances.
Furthermore, the government has clamped down on corruption, which, in the past, resulted in Afghanistan being listed at the top of the most corrupt countries. It has also facilitated movement for Afghans who wish to travel domestically or move overseas. This was done to address the demand of the international community; we also retained around 500,000 members of the previous administration, while increasing the size of the public sector.
We do acknowledge that there remain challenges and shortcomings. But their solution requires time, means and cooperation. Broadly speaking, virtually all countries of the world have problems of their own. Yet, we choose to assist and alleviate, rather than shun and exacerbate.
Let us recall that the international military coalition of the past two decades brought in hundreds of thousands of troops, and expended trillions of dollars, yet were unable to obtain their desired outcome. Even now, they have chosen to live in the past, rather than turn a new leaf. They have repeatedly chosen to turn a blind eye to the positive steps of the government, and have only adopted a policy of accusations and pressure.
Hence, there remains a need to understand and accept the reality that one hand cannot clap.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.