The Washington Post

A famine in Afghanista­n


The Nov. 21 front-page article “Afghans bide time in N.M. ‘village,’ ” about Afghan refugees in the United States, pointed out the many challenges they are facing and their grief over friends and family left behind. However, the article neglected to note what is surely the most serious threat facing those who did not make it out of the country: the severe famine that has already started in Afghanista­n.

The United Nations is estimating that 1 million children under the age of 5 are likely to starve to death this winter, along with millions of older Afghan children and adults. The free fall of the Afghan economy is the main reason for the coming famine, and that economic earthquake is largely the result of the U.S. war and its subsequent policies.

The United States placed sanctions on Afghanista­n and froze more than $9 billion of the country’s assets, ultimately leading to a situation in which Afghan civilians have no way of supporting themselves or of finding food, and making it almost impossible for most aid organizati­ons to help. We may not like the Taliban, but it is now the government in Afghanista­n for the foreseeabl­e future, and the United States should negotiate with the Taliban to allow the government access to the country’s own funds, conditiona­l on the Taliban’s respect for human rights, which could be monitored by an independen­t organizati­on. That is the only way that the banking system can become functional once again, the economy can begin to be rebuilt, and aid can flow in for those who are starving. Negotiatin­g an end to frozen Afghan assets should be an immediate priority for the Biden administra­tion.

Jean Athey, Baltimore The writer is a member of the board of

the Afghan Women’s Fund.

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