Afghanistan: Suffering skyrockets as US replaces soldiers with sanctions.

Kabul, November 2021 — This former school teacher lost her job when the Taliban took control. Due to severe sanctions and a collapsing economy she is now shining shoes for survival. PHOTO: Ali Khara / Reuters

Two weeks before the last U.S. and NATO soldiers left Afghanistan on Aug, 30, 2021, President Biden imposed a freeze on Afghan central bank reserves held in U.S. and European banks. The freeze deprived Afghanistan of $9.5 billion of its own state money, broadening sanctions already levied against the Taliban.

The World Bank suspended loans for a variety of development projects. The International Monetary Fund halted about $460 million in emergency reserves. Germany shelved more than a half-billion dollars in funding. This in a country where three-quarters of public spending is financed by grants.

Though barely covered on U.S. evening news, Afghanistan cannot import and export goods, collect taxes, or pay public workers since the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces. Residents cannot withdraw their money from bank deposits. Hospitals have run out of medicine.

The United States of America and all of its allies in this decimating war must immediately halt the paralyzing money freeze and sanctions.

War by other means. Who suffers most from these imperialist tactics? Workers, women, poor people, low-paid soldiers, the elderly and infirm, and most acutely, the very young. At the end of 2021, at least a million children faced starvation. In September 2021, the World Health Organization declared Afghanistan’s healthcare system on the brink of collapse. Hunger stands at 95% and unemployment is 70%. Given this starting point, a United Nations report from Dec. 2, 2021, predicted that more than 24 million Afghans out of a population of 38 million will require life-saving aid in 2022 as a result of the sanctions.

Afghan society has for decades been unable to survive without foreign funds. Despite promises to build its economy, the United States’ twenty-year war bequeathed to Afghanistan an economy dominated by opium trading and smuggling and corruption. This cannot sustain a population of millions.

The Afghanistan war did not end with the defeat of the U.S. military. It simply shifted to war by other means.

U.S. hypocrisy. Since the 9/11 attack on New York City in 2001, U.S. presidents have insisted that their mission in Afghanistan is to fight terrorism and promote democracy. The U.S. government now repeatedly broadcasts that their sanctions are necessary to bring the Taliban to its knees. Some historical truths are in order.

To press its anti-communist cold war against the Soviet Union, the United States supported the Islamic fundamentalist Mujahideen fighting against Soviet soldiers and the pro-Soviet Afghan government during the 1980s. At every turn, the U.S. embraced, joined, and financed military forces with women-hating Islamic fundamentalists and corrupt regimes of varying Muslim ideologies — all severely limiting democratic rights. The USSR forces in Afghanistan were defeated in 1989.

Its opponents, the Mujahideen, morphed into a number of repressive and brutally anti-woman militias competing against each other, including the Taliban. The U.S. supported the murderous National Islamic Movement Party to help defeat the Taliban in 2001. At the same time, however, to maintain its influence in Afghanistan, this country has relied on a partnership with the government of Pakistan, which has supported the Taliban.

The Afghan constitution, put together with the help of U.S. and European advisors, enshrined the country as an Islamic republic. According to Left Radical of Afghanistan (LRA), “Marxist, socialist, and secularist organizations and parties, as well as workers’ unions, were never allowed to officially register or have permission for their activities.” LRA has been forced underground by the return of the Taliban.

So much for the U.S. “fighting terrorism and supporting democracy.” Its real role in Afghanistan was to sustain control over a region vital to the geopolitical interests of Wall Street capitalism.

How to help the Afghan people. The U.S. has no intention of abandoning its goals in Afghanistan. As LRA reports succinctly: “Although the United States has ended its military presence in Afghanistan, its intelligence presence and intervention are not over.” The U.S. Secretary of State said as much when he declared that “America’s work in Afghanistan continues. We have a plan for what’s next and we’re putting it into action.”

Internationally, the U.S./NATO defeat in Afghanistan has heightened already dangerous relationships with capitalist Russia and China. Both countries are in a position to exploit U.S. humiliation. They may or may not engage the Taliban directly. But Russian and Chinese politics are based on the needs of their own privileged ruling classes. To take sides in any U.S.-Russia or U.S.-China rivalries will not help the Afghan people.

As activists in the heartland of imperialism, it is our job to focus on and demand that the U.S. government take responsibility for the havoc it has wreaked.

  •  Cancel all sanctions and unfreeze Afghanistan’s $9.5 billion from imperialist banks.
  •  Organize massive infusions of humanitarian aid.
  •  Open U.S. and NATO borders to all Afghan refugees, especially women, civil libertarians, secularists and other protected groups.

To those who argue that solely the Taliban will benefit from unfreezing Afghanistan’s banked money and restoring foreign aid, the LRA has this to say: “The Taliban, as a political-religious group with a much older and more conservative view of Islam, will only insist on enforcing Sharia and strict Islamic principles, and restricting women’s rights and civil liberties. It will not be able to provide health, education and social services to the people of Afghanistan. Given this, it will soon face opposition, protests and resistance from the Afghan people and will be isolated internationally.”

Dr. Steven Strauss is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He practices in Baltimore, Md., and serves on the Freedom Socialist Party National Committee. Contact him at [email protected].

Originally published in


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