Impoverished Afghans live amidst enormous wealth


On September 25, 2021, Afghan Minister of Economy Qari Din Mohammad Hanif said his government did not want “the world’s aid and cooperation like the previous government.” The old system was supported by the international community for 20 years but always failed. It’s fair to say that Hanif has no experience running a complex economy, having spent most of his career doing political and diplomatic work for the Taliban (both in Afghanistan and in the United States). Qatar). However, during the first Taliban government from 1996 to 2001, Hanif was the Minister of Planning and as such was in charge of economic affairs.

By Vijay Prashad

Hanif is right to point out that the governments of Presidents Hamid Karzai (2001-2014) and Ashraf Ghani (2014-2021), despite having received billions of dollars in economic aid, have failed to meet the basic needs of the country. Afghan people. At the end of their reign – and 20 years of American occupation – one in three people face hunger, 72% of the population lives below the poverty line and 65% of the population has no access to it. ‘electricity. No boast of Western capitals can obscure the fact that support from the “international community” has resulted in virtually no economic and social development in the country.

Poor North

Hanif, who is the only member of the new Afghan cabinet from the country’s Tajik ethnic minority, comes from the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan. The northeastern provinces of Afghanistan are Tajik-dominated regions, and Badakhshan was the base from which the Northern Alliance quickly moved under U.S. air cover to launch an attack on the Taliban in 2001. In early August 2021, the Taliban swept these districts. “Why defend a government in Kabul that has done nothing for us? Said a former Karzai government official who lives in Badakhshan’s capital, Fayzabad.

Between 2009 and 2011, 80 percent of USAID funds that entered Afghanistan went to the southern and eastern regions, which had been the Taliban’s natural base. Even that money, a US Senate report noted, went towards “short-term stabilization programs instead of longer-term development projects.” In 2014, Haji Abdul Wadood, then governor of Argo district in Badakhshan, told Reuters: “No one gave money to spend on development projects. We have no resources to spend in our district, our province is remote and attracts less attention.

Hanif’s hometown Badakhshan and its neighboring regions suffer from severe poverty, with rates reaching 60 percent. When he talks about failure, Hanif thinks of his native province.

For thousands of years, Badakhshan Province has been home to mines of precious stones such as lapis lazuli. In 2010, a US military report estimated that there was at least $ 1,000 billion worth of precious metals in Afghanistan; Later that year, then Afghan Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani told BBC radio that the real figure could be three times as high. The impoverished north may not be so poor after all.

Thieves in the North

With opium production making up a large portion of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product, it is often at the center of global media coverage of the country’s economy and has partly funded the terrible wars that have ravaged the country in recent years. . The jewels of Badakhshan, meanwhile, provided funding for the Jamiat-e Islami faction of Ahmad Shah Massoud in the 1980s; after 1992, when Massoud became Minister of Defense in Kabul, he entered into an alliance with a Polish company, Intercommerce, to sell the gemstones for around $ 200 million a year. When the Taliban ousted Masoud from power, he returned to the Panjshir Valley and used the gems of Badakhshan, Takhar and Panjshir to fund his anti-Taliban resistance.

When the Northern Alliance, which included Massoud’s faction, came to power under US bombing in 2001, these mines became the property of the Northern Alliance commanders. Men such as Haji Abdul Malek, Zekria Sawda and Zulmai Mujadidi, all Northern Alliance politicians, controlled the mines. Mujadidi’s brother, Asadullah Mujadidi, was the militia commander of the Mining Protection Force, which protected mines for these new elites.

In 2012, then Afghan Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani revealed the extent of corruption in the agreements, which he made clear to the US Embassy in 2009. The attempt at transparency de Shahrani, however, has been understood within Afghanistan as a mechanism to delegitimize Afghan mining concerns and pass a new law that would allow international mining companies more freedom of access to the country’s resources. Various international entities, including Centar (UK) and Polish billionaire Jan Kulczyk, have attempted to gain access to the province’s gold, copper and gemstone mines; Centar has formed an alliance with the Afghanistan Gold and Minerals Company, headed by former Minister of Urban Development Sadat Naderi. The consortium’s mining equipment has now been seized by the Taliban. Earlier this year, Shahrani was sentenced to 13 months in prison by the Afghan Supreme Court for abuse of power.

What will the Taliban do?

Hanif has an impossible agenda. The IMF has suspended funds for Afghanistan and the US government continues to block access to the nearly $ 10 billion in Afghan foreign reserves held in the United States. Humanitarian aid has now entered the country, but it will not be enough. The Taliban’s tough social policy, especially against women, will discourage many aid groups from re-entering the country.

Officials at Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), the country’s central bank, tell me the options the government has are minimal. Institutional control over mineral wealth has not been established. “The agreements reached have benefited a few individuals and not the country as a whole,” said one official. A major agreement to develop the Mes Aynak copper mine with the Metallurgical Corporation of China and with Jiangxi Copper has been inactive since 2008.

At the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in mid-September, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon spoke of the need to prevent terrorist groups from crossing Afghan borders to disrupt Central Asia and China western. Rahmon has positioned himself as an advocate for the Tajik peoples, although the poverty of Tajik communities on both sides of the border should be as much the center of attention as the defense of the rights of Tajiks as a minority in Afghanistan.

There is no public indication from the SCO that it would prevent not only cross-border terrorism, but also cross-border smuggling. The largest quantities of heroin and opium from northern Afghanistan go to Tajikistan; untold amounts of money are made in the illegal movement of minerals, gems and metals out of Afghanistan. Hanif has not raised this point directly, but DAB officials say that unless Afghanistan better requisitions its own resources, which he has failed to do over the past two decades, the country will not be able to improve the living conditions of its people.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is editor and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a non-resident senior researcher at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. He has written over 20 books, including The darkest nationsand The poorest nations. His latest book is Washington Balls, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.


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