Afghanistan needs compassion from world leaders, not politics


On 31 March, heads of government will convene to pledge funds to an appeal for humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan. Your editorial (23 March) draws attention to the fact that humanitarian assistance cannot substitute for a functioning economy. The humanitarian pledging conference will almost certainly not discuss the simple measure that would enable the money donated for Afghanistan to be used effectively. Allowing the Afghan central bank to draw down modest amounts – some $150m monthly – from reserves totalling over $9bn held in US and European banks would revive the banking system and facilitate the payment of bills and salaries. It would also allow humanitarian aid to be administered effectively. That this will not even be discussed at the conference is a scandal.

Governments have allowed the impression to take hold that enabling the central bank to draw on its reserves would confer legitimacy on the Taliban administration. This shows blind disregard for the suffering of millions of ordinary Afghans. If the Afghan funds in US banks have been tied up in legal knots, then those in two German banks and the Bank for International Settlements should be released under international monitoring. If the Taliban interfere in this arrangement, it can be suspended.

Governments should put compassion before politics and allow Afghans to benefit from a functioning banking system.