Afghanistan is on the verge of a “absolute disaster” caused by widespread starvation, homelessness, and economic collapse, world leaders were warned today.
On Sunday morning, the British military reported that seven Afghan civilians had been killed in crowd crushes near Kabul’s international airport, where “conditions on the ground remain extremely problematic.” With mounting outrage over Britain’s bungled evacuation attempt, a hurriedly organised meeting of the G7 leaders has been scheduled for early this week. Kabul’s top officials have warned that the latest upheaval is combining with drought, massive population displacement, and economic standstill to create a tragedy demanding prompt international intervention.
Mary-Ellen McGroarty, Afghanistan’s national director for the United Nations World Food Programme, told the Observer that rapid concerted action was crucial. “Otherwise, an already heinous situation would deteriorate into an outright catastrophe, a humanitarian catastrophe,” she stated. “We need to bring resources into the country, not just food, but medical supplies and shelter materials as well. We require funds now.
“Within the next six or seven weeks, it will become too late. Nobody has anything. We need to get food in now and get it to the provinces’ people before the roads become impassable due to snow.”
One of the Taliban’s senior commanders, co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, arrived in Kabul on Monday for discussions with Afghan political heavyweights, including former President Hamid Karzai, bringing the party closer to forming a government less than a week after capturing Kabul nearly bloodlessly.
While some Taliban commanders have pledged an inclusive administration and retained key people such as the health minister and Kabul mayor, one prominent figure has categorically rejected any sort of democracy. The conversations take place against the backdrop of continued instability and bloodshed at Kabul airport. Numerous individuals with ties to foreign forces and western organisations are sceptical of the Taliban’s amnesty pledges.
Yesterday, the tumultuous evacuation effort was hampered further when the US embassy cautioned its nationals to avoid airport gates because to security risks. According to the New York Times, US officials indicated the most serious risk was an attack by the regional Isis affiliate.
On Sunday, witnesses told Reuters that the Taliban imposed control around Kabul airport, ensuring that passengers formed orderly lineups outside the major gates and preventing masses from forming outside the perimeter. According to witnesses, there was no violence or chaos at the airport when morning broke on Sunday. Even though it was early, long lines were forming.
On Saturday night, Australia operated four flights into Kabul, evacuating more than 300 people, including Australians, Afghan visa holders, New Zealanders, and US and British citizens, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. According to an Indian official, one of the country’s air force cargo planes departed Kabul for New Delhi carrying 168 passengers.
Meanwhile, criticism on the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has intensified over his handling of the evacuation operation, which is running out of time to complete. Raab was on vacation in Crete when Kabul fell to the Taliban last week. Labour leader Keir Starmer called for his resignation for failing to contact his Afghan counterpart during the collapse of the government, but said that Boris Johnson’s conduct had also been marked by “total and utter complacency from start to finish.”
“Definitely, Raab should go,” he told the Observer. “It is a breach of duty – failing to make the call is the most egregious example. Numerous Tory MPs agree that he should resign. However, I believe this also reflects on Johnson. At one point, it would have been self-evident that someone like Raab in this position would have to go, given the collapse of the Afghan administration. However, he does not under Johnson. There is a pervasive impression among the prime minister’s supporters that he consistently fails to seize the moment.”
The Sunday Times claimed last night that Raab was persuaded to return from his trip by a No 10 official but stayed for two further days after Boris Johnson let him to do so.
Starmer claimed he was one of a number of MPs around the country dealing with urgent individual situations involving Afghans who assisted British operations in securing a flight out of Kabul. He asserted that those qualified for the UK’s refugee system might and should have been processed weeks ago due to the scheme’s overly restrictive definition. Several Members of Parliament have complained that a dedicated phone line for reporting cases has gone unanswered.
Foreign affairs select committee members want to summon Raab to an extraordinary meeting to demand an explanation for the evacuation. Chris Bryant, a Labour member of the foreign affairs select committee, said: “Nearly every MP is receiving disturbing phone calls from members of the British armed forces or Afghan families seeking to save someone in Afghanistan.” We’ve been assigned a line to call, but it simply rings out. Raab must be forthright about whether they invested sufficient resources on this, as it appears as though they are asleep at the wheel.”
According to government sources, the UK engaged in fast diplomacy. Johnson met yesterday with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, emphasising his opinion that the UN “must be at the centre of both the humanitarian response to the situation in Afghanistan and international debates over the country’s future.”
The UK government is drafting a proposal for the United Nations Security Council that can be backed by Russia and China.
Apart from the chaos surrounding Kabul airport, humanitarian leaders are profoundly anxious about the weeks ahead. McGroarty stated from Kabul that one in every three Afghans was already experiencing hunger, with over two million children at risk of malnutrition. Drought had already reduced wheat production by 40%, and the Afghan currency was crumbling. Additionally, covid rates are high.
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