Striden om Afghanistans centralbank och beslagtagna valutareserv är livsavgörande för många miljoner människor i vinterns svält och kyla. Allt fler röster höjs för att USA:s regering och Europeiska banker omedelbart skall släppa de pengar som genast behövs för att stabilisera valutan och börja betala löner till bl.a. den halva miljon statsanställda från den förra regeringen som fortsatt är anställda. Samtidigt kräver man att USA skall tillåta att det internationella betalningssystemet genom SWIFT åter skall fungera i Afghanistan så mataffärerna börja köpa in mat och hjälp börja kunna skickas från släktingar utomlands och från internationella biståndsgivare. Med likviditet i betalningssystemet kan bankerna börja betala ut afghanernas sparpengar så de kan användas för köpa av mat, bränsle och vad som behövs för den vanliga konsumtionen eller annat.
En dem som trycker på i USA är Dr. Shah Mohammad Mehrabi som är med i chefsgruppen för Da Afghanistan Bank, Afghanistans centralbank, samtidigt är han professor och ordförande för ekonomiundervisningen vid Montgomery College i Maryland. Schillerinstitutet i USA genom Gerry Belsky och Mike Billington har intervjuat honom och fått en initierad analys av läget med den amerikanska beslagtagandet av den afghanska valutareserven och förlamningen av dess banksystem. Mehrabi är mitt i aktionen för ett upprop från amerikanska kongressledamöter att förmå president Biden att släppa de amerikanska strupgreppet om afghanska ekonomin och betalningssystemet så mat och bränsle kan komma fram innan miljoner liv går till spillo.
I intervjun klargör han hur viktigt det är att Centralbanken tillåts återfå kontrollen över dessa medel för att valutan skall kunna stabiliseras och en förödande kollaps av alla kontoinnehav undvikas. Det finns flera andra upprop för att få loss den frysta valutareserven genom att låta t.ex. FN-institutioner förmedla dessa pengar till olika biståndsprojekt utan att några av regeringens myndigheter blandas in. De som förespråkar detta har en falsk föreställning att utbetalningar av pengar i lokal eller utländsk valuta kan fungera. I själva verket kommer sådant bistånd mycket snart inte vara mycket värt utan en fungerande betalningssystem och stabil valuta.
Den mycket initierade intervjun finns här på engelska: https://schillerinstitute.com/
Dr. Merabi medverkade också i Schilerinstitutets konferens den 13-14 november i Panel 2. Hans tal börjar på denna länk.
Professor Pino Arlacchi talade om Afghanistan på samma panel med början här. Arlacchi is a Sociology Professor at Sassari University, Former Executive Director of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, and former European Parliament Rapporteur on Afghanistan, Topic: “Avoiding the Coming Catastrophe in Afghanistan”
Den efterföljande talaren var Mrs. Amna Malik (Pakistan), president, Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR) Topic: “Socioeconomic Conditions in Afghanistan and the Role of Global Community”
Dr. Shah Mehrabi interview: U.S. Policy Is “Suffocating” the Afghan People
Dec. 16, 2021 (EIRNS)—Dr. Shah Mehrabi, the economist who has served on the Board of the Afghanistan Central Bank since 2002, in a Dec. 15 interview with EIR, characterized the freezing of Afghanistan’s $9.5 billion of reserves being held in the U.S. Federal Reserve and several European banks as illegal and immoral, punishing not the Taliban but the Afghan people. Most Afghans have experienced war nearly all of their lives, he said, and now that there is peace, the freezing of the funds and the imposition of sanctions are “suffocating” the people, creating famine and misery, and many deaths from disease and starvation.
Some of his points:
The denial of access of the funds belonging to the Central Bank has already caused a 14% devaluation of the currency, which will rapidly get much worse, as they are almost out of funds to defend it at all. Soon the people’s savings will be rendered worthless.
Inflation is horrendous: 74% for gas; 20% for wheat; 30% for flour.
Having been denied access to the SWIFT system by sanctions, foreign trade has essentially stopped. Even trade with Pakistan has declined by half.
Humanitarian aid is needed, but by-passing the banking system means it is at best short-term, doing nothing to fix the problem.
Claiming the sanctions and freezing of funds are due to the Taliban’s treatment of women and children makes no sense, since the actions of those withholding the funds are killing women and children. If not reversed immediately, there will soon be millions of women, carrying their babies in their arms, walking out of the country to Iran, with hopes of reaching Turkey and Europe.
The Afghan people are being punished, while the policy does not harm the Taliban, who are cooperating with the Central Bank.
The proposal to by-pass the Central Bank by establishing a private bank to take over its functions is unworkable—commercial banks need profit, and cannot serve as a lender of last resort, while they will not have the trust of the population. Doing so would destroy the trust that exists in the Central Bank.
The UNAMA (UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) already has a bad name in Afghanistan. Now the UN, despite warning that the banking system is collapsing and is needed to run humanitarian assistance, nevertheless has delivered two gifts of $16 million each in aid, but by-passed the Central Bank.
The two-page letter from members of Congress to Biden to release the funds now has 23 endorsers in the House and Senate, while Dr. Mehrabi continues to meet with members and staffers to gain more support. The letter has not yet been released.
He fully supports Helga Zepp-LaRouche’s call for Project Ibn Sina. The health situation is drastic, since the entire system was supported by the World Bank which has cut off all funds. The Covid pandemic is out of control. As to the clean water and electricity needed for health care, they are essentially non-existent. Ibn Sina is indeed beloved in the country, as evident by the main hospital in Kabul being named Ibn Sina Hospital.
The U.S. policy is not only short-sighted, but represents the “final abandonment of the Afghan people.”
U.S. Petition and Mobilization To Lift Sanctions on Afghanistan
Dec. 19 (EIRNS)—Over 3,000 people have signed a U.S. petition addressed to President Joe Biden, saying “Don’t Let U.S. Sanctions Policy Kill 1 Million Afghan Children,” launched by “Just Foreign Policy,” an “independent and non-partisan membership organization dedicated to reforming U.S. foreign policy,” saying: “The United States must move towards a more multilateral approach to foreign relations-one that relies less on raw U.S. military and economic power and more on international law and treaties, co-operation, and diplomacy.”
The petition recalls the fact that “according to the heartbreaking Dec. 4th New York Times report, ‘Facing Economic Collapse, Afghanistan Is Gripped by Starvation,’ the impending death toll from hunger in Afghanistan this winter ‘would dwarf the total number of Afghan civilians estimated to have been killed as a direct result of the war over the past 20 years.’”
Who is to blame? According to the New York Times: “The U.S. is really using its influence on donors and banks to basically stop all money from outside of Afghanistan from getting inside Afghanistan. What the sanctions have done is essentially strangle millions of people across the country so that they can’t afford food, and are facing possible catastrophe over the next couple of months.”
The petition is backed by civil rights activist Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House and chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Signers are asked to call Congress and tell their Representative: “As a constituent, I am asking my representative to sign the Jayapal letter urging the administration to take action to avoid economic collapse in Afghanistan. Experts say 1 million children will die this winter if the U.S. does not change its sanctions policy. Will my representative sign the letter? And can you connect me with the foreign policy staffer or forward my message to them?” (https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/dont-let-us-sanctions-policy-kill-1-million-afghan-children?link_id=3&can_id=df1ed51bd95e77683873ad1e1c8561a8&source=email-nyt-says-us-policy-may-kill-1-million-afghan-kids-take-action-now&email_referrer=email_1387623&email_subject=nyt-says-us-policy-may-kill-1-million-afghan-kids-take-action-now)
46 Congressmen Urge Biden and Yellen To Unfreeze Afghan Funds, Prevent Millions of Deaths
Dec. 21, 2021 (EIRNS)—Reflecting what is clearly becoming a heated debate within the U.S. Congress and other sectors of the Biden administration, yesterday a group of 46, largely Democratic Congressmen wrote to President Joe Biden, with a copy to Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen, urging the former to “avoid harsh economic measures that will directly harm Afghan families and children,” which, they said, means “conscientiously but urgently modifying current U.S. policy regarding the freeze of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves and ongoing sanctions.” Led by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash), Chuy Garcia (D-ILL), and Sara Jacobs (D-CA), the letter quotes UN officials, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and the World Food Program on the threat of one million children dying of starvation, of “universal poverty by next year,” with a poverty rate expected to reach 98%. It is for this reason, the Congress Members state, “that we are deeply concerned by the continued U.S. freeze of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)‘s choice to deny Afghanistan access to special reserve assets intended to help developing countries alleviate the impact of the pandemic and U.S. sanctions’ impact on Afghanistan.” They note that the U.S.’s confiscation of $9.4 billion in the country’s currency reserves has caused soaring inflation, and the shutting down of businesses and commercial banks.
Thus, the letter urges Biden to consider the proposals made by current and former Afghan Central Bank officials, backed by private sector business and banking associations, who are asking the Administration to provide the Central Bank access to hard currency reserves. The letter underscores that no amount of humanitarian aid can “compensate for the macroeconomic harm of soaring price of basic commodities, a banking collapse, a balance-of-payments crisis, a freeze on civil servants’ salaries and other severe consequences that are rippling through Afghan society, harming the most vulnerable.” Reserves that would be returned would be used largely to purchase imports by the private sector, the letter explains, and failure to release them will harm the entire population. “We fear, as aid groups do, that maintaining this policy would cause more civilian deaths in the coming year than were lost in 20 years of war.” (emphasis added)
The Congress Members say that of course they “deplore” the Taliban’s grave human rights abuses, but add that the situation now requires “pragmatic U.S. engagement with the de facto authorities” as key to averting “unprecedented harm to tens of millions of women, children and innocent civilians. Punitive economic policies will not weaken Taliban leaders,” the letter warns, and quotes Mary-Ellen McGroarty, the World Food Program country director for Afghanistan, who states, “we need to separate the politics from the humanitarian imperative.” Failure to maintain open communication, the letter underscores, not only risks humanitarian devastation, but could cause the Taliban to retrench from U.S. engagement and cooperation on counterterrorism and ultimately “enable resentment against the U.S. producing fertile ground for groups like ISIS to gain strength and use the territory as a staging ground for plots against the U.S. and its allies.”
The Congressmen conclude, “We stand ready to work closely with you as you expeditiously review current US policy in light of the extraordinary economic and humanitarian risks confronting the people of Afghanistan. We respectfully ask that you consider the aforementioned measures to protect vulnerable civilians and U.S. national security interests.”
The Trap of a “Humanitarian Financial Corridor” for Afghanistan
PARIS, Dec 19, 2021 (EIRNS)—Besides starving millions to death in Afghanistan, the medieval financial siege of the country provoked a hyperinflationary blowout last week. Even with all foreign financial aid (75 % of its budget and 40 % of its GDP) stopped, assets and cash liquidity frozen abroad, and cut off from international financial markets, the Taliban succeeded this week in presenting a budget, while barter trade agreements are being concluded for bare survival.
But the Afghan currency keeps falling, and the few investors and traders left are moving out. Of course, a currency not guaranteed or backed by an internationally recognized government is doomed. The Afghan ambassador at the UN (who represented the former government) finally resigned while the U.S. refused to give credentials to the candidate proposed by the new Afghan government. The Anglo-American game masters know how to use the weapon of hyperinflation against any government they don’t like, be it Argentina, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, or, now, Afghanistan. Hence, at a given point, the political recognition of the new Afghan government will become the key to stop the hyperinflationary blow-out. Without stopping this blow-out, humanitarian aid alone will fail to offer a future.
The latest “trick” to avoid giving any legitimacy to the new Afghan government is the insistence that all humanitarian aid should be shipped via private or UN-only channels. Already on Nov. 11, Human Right Watch (HRW), whose evil role is well known, without saying a single word about the U.S. freeze of Afghan assets, while shedding crocodile tears, wrote up an entire “roadmap” for such a policy.
To address Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis, HRW recommends that governments, the UN, the World Bank, and the Taliban “should work to reach an agreement to allow the Afghan Central Bank access to the international banking system. As an initial step, the U.S. Treasury Department and other financial authorities should issue licenses and guidance to allow the central bank to engage in limited settlement transactions with outside private banks so that the bank can pay its World Bank dues and process or settle incoming dollar deposits from legitimate private depositors, such as UNICEF, the UN Development Program, remittance banks, and other legitimate actors.
Of course, if such a policy was based on sincerity and good will, it would be acceptable and efficient. However, if the same tool is used to sabotage the efforts of the Afghan government, it would only lead to disaster.
Underscoring the perspective of a colonial form of tutorship, HRW continues, saying that if an agreement involving the central bank is not possible, governments, the UN, and the World Bank “should negotiate a short-term agreement with the Taliban to designate a private bank or other entity, independent of the Central Bank, to process large-scale humanitarian transactions to be monitored by officials with the World Bank, UN, or a designated third-party auditing entity. The US Treasury and other authorities should then issue guidance to allow the designated private bank or entity to utilize incoming electronic dollar deposits from humanitarian agencies to purchase paper US dollars outside the country and transport them, under international monitoring, for deposit in private banks in Kabul. Remittance banks should be provided with similar licenses to allow arrangements with private banks to facilitate legitimate US dollar transactions and, if necessary, physical shipments, monitored by an independent auditor.” (Of course, acceptable for London and Wall Street and not chosen by a P5 combination that would include China and Russia.)
HRW isn’t entirely wrong when it says the U.S., along with other governments, should immediately “undertake sanctions policy reviews, adjust current measures accordingly, and issue new licenses and guidance to facilitate liquidity and availability of cash to address the humanitarian crisis.”
Another group of Congressmen also Call on Blinken, Yellen To Unfreeze BUT Keep Control over Afghan Funds
Dec. 19 (EIRNS)—Tom Malinowsky (D-NJ), Jason Crow (D-CO) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) lead a call upon Secretaries Blinken and Yellen, issued as a Dec. 15 open letter signed by 39 members of Congress and Senators, to unfreeze Afghanistan funds, and release humanitarian aid directly to the Afghan people. The statement is replete with warnings that nothing must be allowed to go through the Taliban government, and that UN-associated agencies will function as a workaround. (https://malinowski.house.gov/media/press-releases/representatives-malinowski-crow-and-meijer-call-release-humanitarian-aid)
The letter said the U.S. must rally donors for the upcoming UN appeal for Afghanistan. They request a report back from the Treasury and State Departments no later than Jan. 14, 2022.
Arguing that “No one benefits from a failed state in Afghanistan,” the letter states that it is the U.S.’s “responsibility to help the many millions … to survive the winter, to feed their children, and to preserve what can be salvaged of the progress made during the last 20 years.” Afghanistan is “on the verge of famine and economic collapse,” so “decisive action is needed to prevent a humanitarian disaster…. [T]here is an approach that the U.S. can take to help prevent a catastrophic collapse of Afghanistan’s aid-dependent economy while not providing legitimacy to the Taliban.”
It cites the World Food Program, that about 18.4 million Afghans need humanitarian assistance; and that about 30% of the population is “facing emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity, including 2 million children.” Salaries have not been paid and there is an inability to withdraw funds from banks, due to a lack of dollars in the country. Finally, ISKP (Islamic State in Khorasan Province) is a threat for extremist activity—and they are the ones who benefit from such a crisis.
They call upon the State and Treasury Departments to take five steps. First, release Afghanistan’s frozen assets to provide, via UN agencies, payment of teacher salaries and school meals. Second, provide additional guidance to financial institutions so that they are clear about processing transactions without fear of U.S. sanctions. Third, since most all civil servants are not Taliban members, but holdovers from the previous government, they need to be paid. As an example, the recently announced release by the World Bank of $280 million (of the $500 million in the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund) is done via UN agencies—and the U.S. should provide support for this in hurdling technical and/or sanctions-related blockages. Fourth, the U.S. should allow international financial institutions to inject capital to “stave off the worst of its economic meltdown…. In the short term, the World Bank, with U.S. help, should systemize dollar-for-afghanis swaps between humanitarian agencies and Afghan businesses. Ultimately, Afghanistan will need an entity to serve as a central bank” for “humanitarians, importers, farmers” to function. We should designate “a private Afghan or third-country bank to facilitate dollar auctions….”
The Schiller Institute is collaborating with individuals and efforts internationally for the needed action in Afghanistan, and for a decisive end to foreign relations based on the neo-British Empire model of perpetual confrontation, and economic subjugation, now pushed in the name “climate emergency,” “rules-based order,” and “democracy.” There are videos in preparation for mass social media use, and other initiatives in rush preparation.
Debate on Afghanistan Policy Heating Up in the State Department
Dec. 20, 2021 (EIRNS)—There are Indications that debate on the issue of aid to Afghanistan, and specifically the freezing of the $9.4 in frozen Afghan Central Bank reserves, is heating up inside the State Department and in other sectors of the Biden Administration. A Dec. 20 Washington Post article quotes several State Department and other officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressing concern about Afghanistan’s collapsing economy and the grave humanitarian crisis. While the Post editorializes that Taliban progress in meeting U.S. and international demands has been “little to none,” “including an end to providing safe haven for groups such as al-Qaeda,” a growing number of administration officials, “particularly in the U.S. State Department, are pushing for more flexibility, with some arguing that the Taliban has been more cooperative in addressing international concerns than it is given credit for.”
Laurel Miller, a former senior official for Afghanistan in the Obama and Trump administrations now at the International Crisis Group, is described as having concerns “similar to those expressed by a number of current officials who are reluctant to speak out publicly…. I recognize that it’s very difficult, in the immediate aftermath of losing a war, to contemplate supporting a state that is run by your former enemies. But the Afghan people need a state that functions, to at least a minimal degree. There is no way to entirely circumvent the Taliban if you’re going to prevent the continued collapse of the entire economy.” Another anonymous official pointed to several, ultimately small actions taken by Treasury, the World Bank, State, and others to allow for some funding to get through, along with humanitarian aid, food, and medicine, etc. But, it’s not enough, this official said, and, according to the Post, a growing number of administration officials, particularly in the State Department, are saying the Biden administration will have to decide whether it wants the government in power to fail, or “if it wants to use its influence in ways that help more Afghans survive.”
The Post quotes Shah Mehrabi, a member of the Board of Governors of the Da Afghanistan Bank, the country’s central bank, discussing his proposal that the Biden administration allow the limited, monitored release of about $150 to $200 million a month from the Bank’s overseas reserves. Although this is half of what the Bank used to sell monthly at auction, Mehrabi says it would be enough to provide currency stability and allow continued individual bank withdrawals and pay for essential imports. See EIR’s interview with Mehrabi published in this week’s issue for a far more in-depth discussion of Afghanistan’s financial situation, and the fight to restore the country’s economic viability and save millions of lives, available at the Schiller Institute website, https://schillerinstitute.com/blog/2021/12/18/interview-with-dr-shah-mehrabi-u-s-policy-is-suffocating-the-afghan-people/
State Department’s Price Tries To Explain U.S.’s “Urgent” Response to Afghan Crisis
Dec. 21, 2021 (EIRNS)—At the State Department briefing yesterday, spokesperson Ned Price felt compelled to give a very long-winded reply to a reporter’s question about whether the U.S. feels the urgency of the Afghan situation, given intensifying calls by aid groups, the “international community,” and lawmakers for the Biden administration to act to prevent millions from starving. What action will the administration take “to mitigate the crisis,” the reporter asked. Price proceeded to enumerate all that the U.S. has done, all the money it has spent as a “global humanitarian leader,” etc., insisting that the U.S. is trying to be “creative” in getting funds and liquidity into the Afghan economy, and particularly underscoring that the current humanitarian crisis isn’t “entirely unique to the present,” although he admitted that it’s grown much worse. He listed all the factors that contributed to the worsening situation, but, of course, never mentioned the U.S. Treasury’s illegal confiscation of $9.4 billion in Afghan reserves as one of them.
Price pointed to last weekend’s meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and its creation of a special trust fund, and the fact that Special Envoy for Afghanistan Tom West attended part of that meeting. With his usual sanctimoniousness, he repeated that the U.S. is the “world’s humanitarian leader for the Afghan people,” but added that the U.S. “can’t do this alone;” the international community “needs to step up” to indicate what it’s prepared to do for the Afghan people. The U.S. has demonstrated its leadership, but, Price added, there are “other countries, including countries very nearby, regional countries that can and should do more for the Afghan people, the region and beyond”—without ever mentioning the names of these regional countries. https://www.state.gov/briefings/department-press-briefing-december-20-2021/
At yesterday’s White House press briefing, when specifically about whether the U.S. would unfreeze the $9.4 billion in Afghan reserves, Press Secretary Jen Psaki limited herself to saying that, since these funds are being litigated by 9/11 families, they can’t be released; even if the funds were unfrozen for Afghanistan, she added, there’s the problem of how to do this so that the Taliban don’t get their hands on them. Moreover, remember that the Taliban are still designated by the U.S. as a “specially designated global terrorist group,” so there’s no way to get around that reality when it comes to discussing unfreezing funds, she said. Perhaps she would like to comment on unfreezing people.