By Nick Clark
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2852

Majority of Afghans live in poverty, US aid cuts to blame

This article is over 1 years, 1 months old
Western states cut off aid after they were forced to withdraw from Afghanistan
Issue 2852
Slums in Afghanistan bolstered by US imperialism and sanctions

Slums in Afghanistan (Picture: Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

Aid cuts, spearheaded by the US, have pushed the vast majority of people in Afghanistan towards poverty—and there could be worse to come. Those are the findings of a United Nations report into Afghanistan’s economy published on Monday.

The number of poor people in Afghanistan has risen to 34 million people—in a country of 40 million. That’s up from 19 million in 2020, before the Taliban, now in government, kicked out Western occupying armies and overthrew their puppet government.

In response, Western governments cut off international aid, and stole government funds. Now poor people are being forced to take “desperate measures to survive.”

“Poor Afghans are being forced to cut back on consumption, including for food, borrow heavily, beg and resort to desperate measures to survive,” the report says. “Some sell their homes, land or income-generating assets.

“Others end up commodifying their own family members, turning children into labourers and young daughters into brides.” It adds that affording food is the main concern for the majority of households in Afghanistan.

The report shows how international aid cuts, and US attempts to strangle Afghanistan’s banks, are at the root of this. “The cutoff in foreign assistance that previously accounted for almost 70 percent of the government budget, has resulted in a sizeable squeeze of public finances,” it says.

The US also froze some £5.6 billion of Afghanistan’s central bank reserves that were held offshore. That caused a banking crisis, forcing up unemployment, leaving wages unpaid, and ordinary people unable to withdraw cash.

The suffering is a deliberate punishment the US has meted out on Afghanistan after its defeat in 2021—and also a legacy of its 20 years of occupation. Even at the end of US control, some 47 percent of people in Afghanistan lived below the poverty line.

It imposed a regime that left services, jobs and pay open to privatisation, the market and NGOs. As the UN’s latest report alludes to, most of Afghanistan’s manufacturing and service industries catered to the occupation.

The puppet government that the US installed in these years was riddled with corruption—and totally dependent on foreign aid. Poverty, and hatred at the occupation and its government, sustained the Taliban through 20 years of armed resistance that eventually forced the US out in 2021. 

After 2021, the report says corruption in Afghanistan fell. But, it adds, the Taliban government has also severely restricted women’s rights to study and work.

The Taliban runs an authoritarian and reactionary regime. It is sustained by a conservative, strict version of Islam that promises order as an alternative to the chaos that decades of imperialist wars and intervention in Afghanistan have brought.

After its takeover in 2021, there was speculation that it might permit women more freedoms if this meant being allowed to integrate into the global economy dominated by the US. Instead, the US chose to punish the Taliban and freeze Afghanistan out.

Now the Taliban appears to have fallen back on its reactionary politics that justify its rule. The UN report says that Afghanistan’s economy won’t improve if women aren’t allowed full freedom to study and work.

It suggests that the US and other countries may use women’s exclusion from humanitarian work to cut aid yet further. But, it adds, “If aid is reduced, the already grave conditions facing ordinary Afghan citizens, especially women and girls will deteriorate further. Incomes will very likely fall, unemployment will increase, and poverty will deepen.”

It all underlines that the root of the poverty and suffering in Afghanistan—and the factors that keep people there—is the brutality of the US desperate to force its control on their government.

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance
One-off